Pygmalion and Galatea, ca. 1890. Jean-Léon Gérôme. Oil on canvas. Gift of Louis C. Raegner, 1927.
Between 1890 and 1892, Gérôme made both painted and sculpted variations on the theme of Pygmalion and Galatea, the tale recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. All depict the moment when the sculpture of Galatea was brought to life by the goddess Venus, in fulfillment of Pygmalion’s wish for a wife as beautiful as the sculpture he created. This is one of three known versions in oil that are closely related to a polychrome marble sculpture, also fashioned by Gérôme (Hearst Castle, San Simeon, Calif.). In each of the paintings, the sculpture appears at a different angle, as though it was being viewed in the round.