Pygmalion is a Greek myth constantly reinterpreted

The numerous Greek myths recount the life and miracles of their gods, their heroes, their people, explain the origin and meaning of the phenomena of nature, albeit in an unscientific way (though the Greeks also began scientific thinking); delve into the lives of men, their essence, their passions, their customs. Myths, then, transmit messages of identity to members of the society of the every period.

Greek mythology is also a vast area open to the creativity of men. So some of their myths have been recreated  again and again since Antiquity.

One of the most inspiring has been the myth  Pygmalion, king of Cyprus, a priest, a sculptor who falls in love with his own work, the sculpture of the young beautiful Galatea. The image will come to life by the goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

There are many examples in history in which the author falls in love with his work, whether in art of sculpture or painting.

Who think that Leonard  was in love with Mona Lisa, the Gioconda, work that remained with him throughout his life, would not be more successful if   they would assert the love to his own work, his paint,  and not a girl of flesh and bone in view of the character of the author?  And what about the special consideration that Michelangelo dispensed his Moses, whom he considered his best work and according to tradition, perhaps legendary, hit him with hammer to speak because that he had no?

The theme of Pygmalion and Galatea has been picked up by many painters and sculptors: Bronzino, Boucher, Gérôme, Goya, Edward Burne-Jones, Girodet, Poussin, Daumier, Rodin and Falconet.

The theater and music have reinterpreted that so many times: in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there are no fewer than half a dozen operas, musicals and ballets about  the myth of Pygmalion.

In modern times the most famous recreation was the play of George Bernard Shaw also called "Pygmalion", published in 1913. A professor of phonetics transforms  a vulgar London florist who talks careless in a sophisticated lady with perfect diction.

On the work of Bernard Shaw are made several movies, one in 1938 and the most famous and hugely successful My Fair Laydi in 1964 directed by George Cukor and starring  by Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison,  adjustment for film of a famous musical of the year 1956.

More recently (1990), the film “Pretty Woman”, directed by Garry Marxhall and starring by Richard Gere and Julia Robers, also with highly successful, returns the old myth. Now is a handsome and wealthy businessman without scruples who hires a prostitute who will radically change way of life when the young man treated her with respect as a person and taught to behave in society, also the broker underwent a profound transformation  in that normalized relationship.

Several critics, especially some feminists have highlighted the sexist nature of the myth that highlights t superiority of the male  by the fact that men are just artists, modelers, and women, however, the product, modeling.

Apart from the assessment and personal interest of everyone, it seems advisable to try and evaluate every literary or artistic work in the context in which it occurs.

At this point, it is appropriate to know the myth of "Pygmalion" itself and therefore offer a version of it on the basis of what the Latin poet Ovid tells us in his Metamorphoses, in Book X, lines 243 – 297.


Pygmalion was a wise and good king of the island of Cyprus, was also a priest and an extraordinary sculptor. For a long time searched for wife the most beautiful and perfect woman of Greece without finding anywhere. Moreover, disgusted by the vices and bad behavior of some women who shamelessly prostituted the beauty of your body, decided to live alone, without a companion to his bed, and dedicate forever to sculpt beautiful statues.

One day, he decided with his extraordinary art sculpt the body of a woman out of ivory white as snow in the image and likeness of the goddess Venus. Finish the job and finding more perfect than if he had the nature, fell in love with that beautiful woman's body, which he named Galatea.

It seemed the ivory statue of a young woman living truth to get up and speak sweet words. Pygmalion's heart lit each day more and more love for Galatea, which caressed and kissed and clasped in his arms. He thought even in his delirium she back him kisses  and answer their sentences in love.

Dear Galatea: I bring colorful flowers and jewelry for your hands and this long necklace for your neck.

he said her tenderly. Or caring and loving he leaned the beautiful naked body saying:

Rest, dear love in this bed of purple and lie your head on these soft cushions of feathers.

Meanwhile had come the day of the feast of Venus, the patroness of Cyprus. The Pygmalion priest sacrificed on the altar of the goddess some skin white young calves carrying the head and horns adorned with colorful ribbons and sheets of gold and incense burned and spread its sweet smelling smoke in the temple. With a timid voice whispered the king, priest and sculptor, at the altar:

Oh god almighty! I beg my wife, if I ever find her, were like my ivory woman.

Listened Venus, the goddess of love who attended the party, these words with divine mercy.

When Pygmalion returned home, came to the statue  and gave it a gentle kiss. He fell asleep and  seemed in dreams that ivory body did not return the freezing cold inert ivory but was lukewarm. Bring near  his mouth again and touch its chest with his trembling hands. Ivory abandons its hardness, is softened and yields to finger pressure. Wake up startled and fearful and unbelieving and amazed again and again touches the silent body and with caresses  infuses warmth and life. Now it is a living body, your flexible muscles  give motion to its members, the blood  runs through your  veins which have a pulse and pink dyed his face. When Pygmalion kisses finally living Galatea’s living, she blushes and looks with rapture at her husband.

Pygmalion is directed with respectful words of thanks to Venus and the goddess of love appears suddenly, splendid and bright and affable replies:

You deserve happiness, Pygmalion, a happiness to which you yourself have been shaped by your actions. Here the queen and wife who have sought. Love her forever, defend her from the poor and share with her your happiness. "

  Thus Galatea became a real woman and Pygmalion got the desire  so eagerly pursued.


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