The painterJean Leon Geromeis famous for his works portraying the great achievements of Napoleon, oriental-themed paintings or for scenes inspired by Antiquity, such as the famous Pollice verse of him And also on this canvas owned by the Metropolitan Museum in New York it is based on episodes from the past. Although in this case the origin is mythological.
Pygmalion and Galatea by Gerome
Represents us the story of Pygmalion and Galatea, an episode included among the classic Metamorphoses of Ovid. There it is related as Pygmalion, he had carved a perfect woman in ivory. The woman he had spent his life searching for and never found. So he went to make his petitions to the goddess Aphrodite, asking her to find a woman just like the one he had created with his own hands.
And the goddess of love took pity on him, so without telling him, she decided that the sculpture would come to life if that man showed her passion by kissing the ivory. Returning to his workshop,Pygmalionbegan to touch the figure and felt it softer, more human, he longed for it to be a flesh and blood woman, and he launched into giving it a kiss.
Then the girl, named Galatea, began to transform. She hugged the man and the ivory gradually transformed into a person. That moment is precisely the one that shows us the painting of Gerome.
If you look closely, you canappreciate that this process of transformation is still unfinished. The upper part of Galatea is already flesh, as Gerome depicts with its colors. While the legs, more whitish, are still those of a sculpture, which also cannot be separated from the base on which it stands.
Precisely there is a Cupid or Eros in the upper right part of the scene, ready to launch his arrow of love at the couple, at the precise moment that the entire figure of Galatea becomes a completely human being and alive.
Gerome, as he does in other works, paints with archaeological criteria, so he expands on representing how the workshop of an ancient sculptor could have been, hence the presence of other sculptures, an allusive painting on the wall or the typical masks used in theatrical performances. Although, all this seems accessory compared to the couple that occupies the center of the canvas, especially Galatea, whose nudity seems to give life and light to the entire painting.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best pictorial representations that have been made of the myth of Pygmalion, which has also been captured by authors such as Bronzino , Daumier, Goya or Paul Delvaux. Not to mention the sculptural versions like the one byRodinor the literary interpretations like the one made by the writer Georges Bernard Shaw with his work precisely titledPygmalion.