Late in his career, Gérôme turned to the medium of sculpture. Between 1890 and 1893, he executed both sculpted and painted variations on the theme of Pygmalion and Galatea, as the tale is recounted in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.” All of those works depict the moment when the sculpture of Galatea was brought to life by the goddess Venus, in fulfillment of Pygmalion’s wish for a wife as beautiful as the sculpture he created.
In 1890, Gérôme commented that he had “just begun” a painting of Pygmalion and Galatea. This is one of three known versions in oil of the subject, all likely based on the plaster model of a lifesize marble sculpture (Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California). In each painting, the sculpture appears at a different angle, as though it was being viewed in the round.