The story of Pygmalion and Galatea is quite known and popular till nowadays. Pygmalion, a famous sculptor, falls in love with his own creation and wishes to give this creation life. This simple and imaginary concept is actually the basis from a psychological understanding of male behaviour and wish. This nice myth is considered as the depiction of the masculine need to rule over a certain woman and to inanimate his ideas into a female living creature. The modern concept of Pygmalion is thought as a man who "shapes" an uncultivated woman into an educated creature.
The strange sculptor
Pygmalion was a sculptor par excellence, a man who gave to every one of his ivory a life-like appearance. His deep devotion to his art spared him no time to admire the beauty of women. His sculptures were the only beauty he knew. For reasons known only to him, Pygmalion despised and shunned women, finding solace only in his craft. In fact, he was so condemning to women that he had vowed never to marry.
Falling in love with his own creation
One fine day, Pygmalion carved the statue of a woman of unparalleled beauty. She looked so gentle and divine that he could not take his eyes off the statue. Enchanted with his own creation, he felt waves of joy and desire sweeping over his body and in a moment of inspiration he named the figurine, Galatea, meaning "she who is white like milk". He draped over her the finest of cloths and bedecked her with the most dazzling of ornaments, adorned her hair with the prettiest of flowers, gave to her the choicest of gifts and kissed her as a sign of adoration. Pygmalion was obsessed and madly in love with his creation. The spell the lifeless woman cast on him was too much to resist and he desired her for his wife. Countless were the nights and days he spent staring upon his creation.
The realization of his dream
In the meanwhile, the celebration of goddess Aphrodite was fast approaching and preparations were well under way. On the day of the festival, while making offerings to goddess Aphrodite, Pygmalion prayed with all his heart and soul, beseeching the goddess that she turns his ivory figurine into a real woman. Touched by his deep veneration, Aphrodite went to the workshop of Pygmalion to see this famous statue by herself. When he looked upon the statue of Galatea, she got amazed by its beauty and liveliness. Looking better at it, Aphrodite found that Galatea looked like her in beauty and perfection, so, satisfied, she granted Pygmalion his wish.
Upon returning home the master-sculptor went straight to Galatea, full of hope. At first, he noticed a flush on the cheeks of the ivory figurine but slowly it dawned upon him that Aphrodite had heard his pleas. Unable to restrain himself, he held Galatea in his arms and kept her strongly. What had been cold ivory turned soft and warm and Pygmalion stood back in amazement as his beloved figurine came into life, smiling at him and speaking words of admiration for her creator.
Their love blossomed over the days and before long, wedding vows were exchanged between the two lovers with Aphrodite blessing them with happiness and prosperity. The happy couple had a son, Paphos, who later founded the city of Paphos in Cyprus. Some say that Pygmalion and Galatea also had a daughter, Metharme. The bottom line is that the couple lived happily ever after.
The influence of the myth on the arts
The story of Pygmalion and Galatea was made famous by Ovid in his famous work, Metamorphoses. However, the name Galatea was ascribed to the figurine only in the 18th century and gained prominence through Jean-Jacque Rousseau's opera, Pygmalion (1762). Another famous work that is based on this myth is the play "Educating Rita", written by Willy Russel in 1980. The story of the two lovers has been portrayed by many famous painters. Furthermore, we can't but observe the similarity between the story of Galatea and the fable of Pinocchio, the wood-carved boy who was brought to life by a fairy-lady because of a man's wish to have children.