According to some Greek mythological stories Atlanta, a virgin huntress, was the daughter of Schoeneus or Iasus. Her name was derived from the Greek word ‘Atalantos’, meaning ‘equal in weight’, which probably refers to her success in various contests with men, as she frequently outshined her male competitors.
Traditionally, Atlanta was the daughter of Schoeneus of Boeotia or Iasus and clymene of Arcadia. According to mythological stories, she was abandoned at birth in the Arcadian mountains, as her father eagerly expected a son and was deeply disappointed with having a daughter. However, goddess Artemis felt pity for the child and sent a she-bear to suckle and guard her, until the hunters found and raised the abandoned child. Gradually, she grew up to become a fierce and a swift-footed huntress and as a symbol of gratitude, took oath of virginity to Artemis. Later, when two centaurs, Hylaeus and Rhoecus, burst into her grove and tried to rape her, she killed both of them. She also defeated Peleus, the king of the Myrmidons of Thessaly, in wrestling at the funeral games of King Pelias.
After the incident of the Calydonian boar hunt, when none of the male hunters could trap or kill the powerful wild boar and she became the first to hit the gigantic beast and drew the first blood, Atlanta’s father could no longer ignore her daughter. He reconciled, offered her a place at his palace and insisted her to marry like every other woman. However, Atlanta bluntly refused to agree, as she was determined to remain a virgin. Eventually, after long persuasion, she reluctantly agreed to marry, only if a suitor could defeat her in a race, but the losers would be put to death.
Despite the horrible condition, many suitors accepted the challenge, lost the race and consequently lost their lives. When it seemed almost certain that Atlanta would remain unmarried forever, as there is nobody who could beat her in a race, one day a brave young man, named Hippomenes, appeared to accept the challenge. He was intelligent enough to calculate that he can never beat Atlanta in a challenging race. He, therefore, went to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty and prayed for her help in the matter. As Aphrodite was against virginity, she gladly gifted him three irresistible golden apples to distract Atlanta during the race, which would ultimately slow down her pace.
As soon as the race started and Atlanta took the lead, Hippomenes threw the first apple off the road and as he expected, Atlanta could not resist its attraction and got off the track to get the golden apple. Hippomenes immediately took the opportunity and passed ahead of Atlanta. But his lead did not last long, as Atlanta came close behind him and was about to take the lead again. Without wasting any time, Hippomenes repeated his action, as he threw his second apple way off the course.
However, it did not help him much, as Atlanta picked up the apple and quickened her steps, to take her lead again. When they almost reached the finishing line, Hippomenes desperately threw the third apple to take his last chance and it created a moment of distraction for Atlanta, which was just enough for the brave young man to cross the finishing line ahead of her.
Jean-Jacques Pradier, popularly known as James Pradie, created many mythological female characters and most of his sculptures are erotic, draping the figures in such a way that displays and complements the female form. His La Toilette d’Atlanta is rated by some art critics as the most complete work of art of the entire 1850-1851. It depicted Atlanta tying up her sandals and ready to put back the necklace she had placed on the ground, while three golden apples are lying in front of her. It is considered by many that for the creation of this beautiful mythological nude with voluptuous curves, Pradie probably depended on the model of the crouching Venus.