Tuesday, 17 November 2015
Mini History Blogs: Pygmalion
We all know the story of Henry Higgins and how he transforms Eliza Doolittle from a ragamuffin into a beauty in My Fair Lady. The play and later the film was based on George Bernard Shaw's 1912 play Pygmalion.
Pygmalion is in fact a Greek myth and features in Metamorphoses, a c43BC poem by Ovid, a Roman poet.
In this work, Pygmalion is a goldsmith and has an interest in sculpture, according to Ovid, Pygmalion had become disenchanted with women because of the "immoral behaviour of the Propoetides, who were the daughters of Propoetus" from the city of Amathus on the island of Cyprus. They had been punished by Aphrodite for not worshiping her, punishing them, she filled them with a passion to behave immorally and act as prostitutes.
This disenchantment forces Pygmalion to make a ideal woman out of stone. In the image below we can see Pygmalion's story from the 'Le Roman de la Rose' where he falls in love with his beautiful statue, the depth of his love is such, that on the festival of Venus he makes an offering to her where he wishes for a bride in "the living likeness of my ivory girl" on returning home, he kisses the face of his ivory statue and finds that its lips feel warm and on touching the ivory skin he finds it has lost its hardness. Its seems that Venus had granted Pygmalion's wish and the ivory sculpture has changed to a woman.
Pygmalion marries the living statue and together they have a son Paphos from where the coastal city in Cyprus is named.