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Pygmalion and Galatea

Pygmalion and Galatea

Maker: Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824-1904)

Date: c. 1890
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Image: 17-3/8 x 13-1/4 in. (44.1 x 33.7 cm)
Framed: 20-3/4 x 16-7/8 x 1-3/4 in. (52.7 x 42.9 x 4.4 cm)
Credit Line: Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Davidson
Object number: 1980.73
Classification(s):
Western
Classification(s):
European
Label Text
This preparatory oil sketch depicts one of Gérôme’s favorite themes: Pygmalion, the sculptor of Greek legend, whose statue of the beautiful Galatea comes to life. Depicted at the moment of transformation, Galatea leans down to kiss the cheek of her creator, her face and arms warming with a rosy glow while her ivory feet are still embedded on her marble base. In the final painting, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Galatea faces away from the viewer, her face only visible to Pygmalion. Identifying with his subject, Gérôme painted Pygmalion’s surroundings to echo his own, with the cabinets and stool identical to those that stood in his ninteenth-century studio. Also evident in the work is Gérôme’s preoccupation with classical statuary and artistic tradition. As a champion of the French Academy’s idealized themes and rigid standards of beauty, Gérôme won critical acclaim in both Europe and America.
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