September 8, 2009

The Story of Pygmalion and Galatea

I believe the painting below based in Greek mythology is fantastically beautiful and romantic. It depicts Pygmalion, King of Cyprus who sculpted a woman out of marble, all the while wishing for a wife as beautiful as the woman he created. The statue which Pygmalion called Galatea was so lovely that he fell in love with his own creation.

Like many Greek myths, Venus, the Goddess of Love brings the sculpture to life, as seen in Galatea's top portion of her torso, yet her calves are still grounded in marble. This is perhaps the most dramatic part of the painting. She is half stone, half human.

There is so much to be viewed in this painting: a vision of Cupid shooting his love arrow straight for the Artist. At this point, Galatea leans her beautifully curved back over for a passionate kiss with Pygmalion. Small, but intended props included are the drama masks of theatre.

The Artist:
Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904). French painter and sculptor.

Interesting facts: This story also inspired George Bernard Shaw to create Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, the Pygmalion and Galatea of his play "Pygmalion." That play in turn was the basis of the popular musical, "My Fair Lady."

I would like to thank one of my Art History Professors Dr. Petra Chu for introducing me to this painting, that I have never forgotten, after all these years.

This painting can be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Also, a different version by the same Artist can be seen at the The Bridgemen Art Library in London.


  1. It is a very beautiful and interesting painting. Thanks for the history, I would never have known about the "My Fair Lady" connection!

  2. Lovely~ a sweet reminder to look for the little things. This is such a beautiful painting.

  3. It really is a beautiful painting! Thanks for posting this one, XXX, C.

  4. I love the story behind this one, and the connection to My Fair Lady. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I have a wonderful cookbook with a fine recipe for "Bouillibaise" and a story of Venus preparing this for Vulcan to lure him to come home. I love stories that connect to mythology and in turn to progress. My Fair Lady has always been one of my favorite movies.
    Thanks for the Art History lesson today.
    Wonderful statue. I can see the fascination and the greed of wanting to make it come alive, like pinochio.

  6. Beautiful painting and i loved the little art history lesson!

  7. you have been blessed to have such an impressionable teacher ... thank you for sharing his teachings today ... heartwarming and passionately beautiful ...

  8. Thank you for bringing such beauty to us today. I have gone back to look at the visual three times! I love mythology and have read the story of Pygmalion and Galatea but have never seen this painting. Fortunately, I am going to NY next month and the Met is definitely on my itinerary.

  9. Thank you for the tutorial and sharing this beauty. xo

  10. Thanks Kathy for sharing this beautiful painting. Your professor would be so proud! xoxo

  11. I love this painting. I always visit it at the Met. :-)


Thanks for visiting.
~ Kathleen ~