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Romeo and Juliet Abelard and Heloise
Pygmalion and Galatea - Legedary Love Stories
96    Dibyendu Banerjee    03/12/2022

The enchanting mythological story of the Pygmalion and Galatea, adapted by the Roman poet Ovid in his Metamorphosis, depicts the story of a Cypriot sculptor who fell in love with a sculpture created by him. Since its ancient Greek origin, the mythical story of Pygmalion and Galetea has inspired several artists like Franz von Stuck, Jean-Léon Gérôme and Francois Boucher.

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However, one of the most favoured versions was portrayed by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones in his series of four panels, which secured him as one of the most important artists among the members of his group, called The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

pygmalion and galatea
Painting by Louis Jean François Lagrenée

As the story goes, Pygmalion a sculptor, living in Cyprus, decided to stay away from the girls, remain unmarried and sexually abstinent and devote his life to excel in his passion of sculpture, as he became disgusted by the floating and immoral lifestyle of the local women. Gradually, he became utterly obsessed with his imagery idea of an ideal woman with perfect beauty, which he wanted to create.

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As he became more and more engrossed in the passion of his artistic work, he became forgetful about his surroundings, never took away his eyes from his incomplete creation of the perfectly beautiful ideal woman and was not even aware of the interested women peering through the doorway of his studio.

pygmalion and galatea
Pygmalion praying to Venus to bring his statue to life, Jean-Baptiste Regnault, 1785

Finally, when Pygmalion completed his creation of the woman of his dream, he hopelessly fell in love with the statue of the young girl, which he named Galatea, the milky white girl. Like a person in a hypnotic spell, he spent his days and nights staring at her unearthly beauty. Like a man in a trance, he lost himself in his devotion, tormented by the unrequited love for the lifeless beauty that he created, ignoring the lively girls, who were interested in him.

pygmalion and galatea
Painting by Francois Boucher

In the meantime, as the city was celebrating the festival of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, Pygmalion prayed with all his heart and soul to the goddess to give life to his creation, the lifeless marble statue of his beloved Galatea. Touched by his deep veneration and intense desire, the goddess visits his studio and becomes amazed by the beauty of Pygmalion’s Galatea. Consequently, she fulfilled the longing of Pygmalion and breathed life into the statue. At that moment Pygmalion noticed a flush on the cheeks of the sculpture and he knew that his prayer was heard.

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Without wasting a moment the excited sculptor embraced and kissed the statue, when life breathed into the cold marble. He kissed it again and pleasantly surprised to feel that the cold marble had lost its hardness. With the blessings of the goddess Aphrodite, they got married and lived happily ever after. The couple even had a son, Paphos, who later founded the city of Paphos in Cyprus.

pygmalion and galatea
Painting by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

Interestingly, in the wake of the mythical story of Pygmalion and Galatea, the word Pygmalionism came into existence to denote love for an object of one’s own creation.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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