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Jean Léon Gérôme
Pygmalion and Galatea
(two painted versions and one stone version)
and The Cockfight
I guess most of you will be familiar with the story of how the sculptor Pygmalion fell in love with one of his statues, and how Aphrodite took pity on him and allowed the statue to come to life.
Of course, in my stories it’s the women (and men!) that turn into statues instead....
Jean Léon Gérôme was himself a sculptor, which probably had some influence on the subject matter as well as the fact that he painted the same scene from both the front and back. If you look carefully, however, you’ll notice some differences between the two versions. In both versions Gérôme has chosen to depict the moment when Galatea comes to life and embraces Pygmalion. The transition from cold stone to living flesh is in its own way as strange and surreal as anything by René Magritte. In the same year, Gérôme produced a statue of the same subject. A statue of a statue coming to life...just how mind-bogglingly ironic is that?!
Another significant painting by Gérôme is The Cock Fight, (below left) which may have influenced Jean-Aleandre Falguière’s statue The Winner of the Cockfight (below centre) and Sophie-Victoire Debry’s Cockfight (below right).Further reading: Jean Léon Gérôme by Gerald M. Ackerman (French language, profusely illustrated) ISBN 2-86770-137-6
A Modern variation on the Pygmalion theme:
“Finding Galatea” by Tobin James Mueller
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