Pygmalion and Galatea

Object Details


Pygmalion and Galatea




possibly about 1812 - 1820


Brush and sepia wash


20.5 x 14.1 cm (8 1/16 x 5 9/16 in.)

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A sculptor chisels away at his statue of an ideal woman. Francisco José Goya y Lucientes here referred to the mythological story of Pygmalion, the legendary king of Cyprus who fell in love with a statue. According to Ovid, Pygmalion carved the statue from ivory with wonderful artistry. Every night he prayed to Venus that he might have a wife as beautiful as the image he had created. Finally, the goddess caused the statue to come to life. As Pygmalion's wife, she came to be called Galatea.

In a possible self-portrait, Goya depicted Pygmalion with his legs spread wide, readying himself to take a mighty swing at the chisel, which is aimed at Galatea's crotch. Leaning slightly forward, she looks out with a fearful expression. Goya's animated interpretation of the well-known myth is highly original and even mocking. Free application of sepia wash shows Goya's complete command of the range of tones available in this medium.

Goya and the Spirit of the Enlightenment (January 18 to July 16, 1989)
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 18 to March 26, 1989
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), May 4 to July 16, 1989
The Power of Myth: European Mythological Drawings of the 15th through the 19th Century (October 12 to December 26, 1993)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), October 12 to December 26, 1993
Juanes to Goya: Spanish Drawings 1560 -1825 (September 14 to November 28, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), September 14 to November 28, 1999
Goya: la imagen de la mujer (October 30, 2001 to June 2, 2002)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), March 10 to June 2, 2002
Window onto Spain: Drawings and Prints from Ribera to Goya (February 17 to May 16, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), February 17 to May 16, 2004
Images of the Artist (November 15, 2011 to February 12, 2012)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 15, 2011 to February 12, 2012
Related Media
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    Audio: Pygmalion and Galatea (Exhibit: Images of the Artist)