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Porcelain group of Pygmalion and Galatea

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Height: 36.100 cm

Bequeathed by Sir Bernard Eckstein, Bt.

M&ME 1948,12-3,38

Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

    Porcelain group of Pygmalion and Galatea

    Sèvres factory, Sèvres, France, about AD 1764-73

    This soft-paste biscuit porcelain group is based on the highly praised marble by Etienne-Maurice Falconet (1716-91) which was shown at the Paris Salon in 1763. The subject is taken from classical mythology; Pygmalion, king of Cyprus, fell in love with an ivory figure he is said to have carved himself, and begged the goddess Aphrodite to grant him a woman in this image. He discovered the figure had come to life, and married her. Falconet's statue represents the instant when Pygmalion, with his artist's tools by his cloak, kneels in awe at the awakening Galatea. The winged cupid, now missing most of his bow, signifies love.

    The Sèvres model exists in two sizes, of which this example is the smaller. It was made in moulds in seventeen different parts. The factory records show that a number of modellers worked on this group; it is thought that the incised 'B' on the top of the base stands for Jean-Jacques Bachelier (1724-1806), who was in charge of the sculpture workshop from 1751-57 and 1766-73. Only ten examples of this group were made between 1765 and 1770, and appear to have been sold singly to well-known merchants.

    A. Dawson, A catalogue of French porcelai, revised paperback edition (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

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