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.