What is it?
• Pygmalion is a legendary figure of Cyprus. Though Pygmalion is the Greek
version of the Phoenician royal name Pumayyaton, he is most familiar from
Ovid's narrative poem Metamorphoses, in which Pygmalion was a sculptor who
fell in love with a statue he had carved.
Pygmalion was a very talented sculptor in ancient Greece who loved his work, and would spend
hours carving beautiful ivory statues, immersing himself in his art. One day, he chose a large,
beautiful piece of ivory, and worked diligently at it, chiseling and hammering until he finished. It
was a statue of a beautiful lady. Pygmalion thought it was so beautiful, he clothed the figure, gave
it jewels, and named it Galatea (sleeping love). Pygmalion went to the temple of Aphrodite
(Venus), the goddess of love and beauty to pray for a wife just like the statue in his home.
When Aphrodite heard him, she went to the home of he sculptor to see what all the fuss was
about. She was delighted when she saw Galatea. She thought it looked a lot like herself, so she
brought it to life. When the sculptor returned home, he found Galatea alive, and threw himself at
her feet. Galatea smiled down at him. They soon got married, and Pygmalion didn't forget to thank
Aphrodite for his good fortune. He and Galatea brought gifts to her altar as long as they lived.
Aphrodite blessed them with happiness and love in return.
Re-interpretations of the myth
• The basic Pygmalion story has been
widely transmitted and re-presented
in the arts through the centuries. At
an unknown date, later authors give
as the name of the statue that of
the sea-nymph Galatea or Galathea.
Goethe calls her Elise, based upon
the variants in the story of
How the myth affects the modern movies
• A variant of this theme can also be seen in the story of Pinocchio, in which a wooden puppet
is transformed into a "real boy", though in this case the puppet possesses sentience prior to
its transformation; it is the puppet and not its creator, the woodcarver Mister Geppetto, who
beseeches the divine powers for the miracle.
• In the final scene of William Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, a statue of Queen Hermione
which comes to life is revealed as Hermione herself, so bringing the play to a conclusion of
• In George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, a modern variant of the myth with a subtle hint of
feminism, the underclass flower-girl Eliza Doolittle is metaphorically "brought to life" by a
phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, who teaches her to refine her accent and conversation
and otherwise conduct herself with upper-class manners in social situations.
How the myth affects the art
• The story has been the subject of notable paintings by Agnolo Bronzino,
Jean-Léon Gérôme, Honoré Daumier, Edward Burne-Jones Auguste Rodin,
Ernest Normand, Paul Delvaux, Francisco Goya, Franz von Stuck, François
Boucher, and Thomas Rowlandson, among others. There have also been
numerous sculptures of the "awakening".
This is Pygmalion by Jean-Baptiste Regnault. It’s created in 1786 and
now is stored in Musée National du Château et des Trianons in
3. where did Pygmalion live?
5. What was the god that made Galatea
1. What was the job of Pygmalion?
2. What was the name of the sculpture?
4. Which modern fairy tale did the myth