FALCONET, Étienne-Maurice
(b. 1716, Paris, d. 1791, Paris)

Pygmalion and Galatea

Marble, height 83 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The myth of Pygmalion, so popular in eighteenth-century France, was fittingly to be carved by Falconet. The result appeared at the Salon of 1763, to be enthusiastically received by everyone. The galant connotations of the theme added to its popularity. This was probably the greatest moment of public success in Falconet's career, though it did not coincide with his finest work. The group's popularity was connected less with its merits than with its subject, which inspired several paintings and Rousseau's scene lyrique, among other theatrical pieces, as well as some philosophic interpretation. The myth expressed, above all, the idea of woman coming to life under a man's hands; it had seldom been utilized by sculptors, and Falconet's Pygmalion kneels in rapture before what amounts to a double act of creation.