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The term "Gothic style" refers to the style of European architecture, sculpture (and minor arts) which linked medieval Romanesque art with the Early Renaissance. The period is divided into Early Gothic (1150-1250), High Gothic (1250-1375), and International Gothic (1375-1450). Primarily a public form of Christian art, it flourished initially in the Ile de France and surrounding region in the period 1150-1250, and then spread throughout northern Europe.
Its main form of expression was architecture - exemplified by the great Gothic cathedrals of Northern France. For the two main decorative styles, please see Rayonnant Gothic Architecture (c.1200-1350) and the later Flamboyant Gothic Architecture (1375-1500). The finest examples of Gothic design include: Chartres Cathedral (1194-1250); Notre-Dame Cathedral (1163-1345); Sainte Chapelle (1241-48); and Cologne Cathedral (from 1248); as well as the cathedrals of Canterbury, Winchester, Westminster Abbey and Santiago de Compostela. In Gothic design, the planar forms of the previous Romanesque idiom were replaced by a new focus on line. And its soaring arches and buttresses permitted the opening up of walls for unprecedently huge windows of stained glass filled with beautifully inspirational translucent images of Biblical art, far surpassing anything that wall painting or mosaic art had to offer. All this created an evocative humanistic atmosphere quite different from the Romanesque period. (During the late 14th century, a more secular Gothic style emerged, known as International Gothic, which spread across Burgundy, Bohemia and northern Italy.)
Gothic art, being exclusively religious art, lent powerful tangible weight to the growing power of the Church in Rome. This not only inspired the public, as well as its secular leaders but also it firmly established the connection between religion and art, which was one of the foundations of the Italian Renaissance (1400-1530). Among famous medieval artists in the Gothic style were Giovanni Pisano and Simone Martini of the Sienese School of painting.
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Pygmalion and Galatea
Pygmalion and Galatea The story of Pygmalion and Galatea is found in Greek Mythology, and in the famous work "Metamorphoses", by the great Roman poet Ovid. Their love was so unique that it is difficult to define it. But from this legendary love story, one thing is clear, man can never love an inanimate object with as much passion as he loves a living, breathing being. Love gives rise to desire and without this passion any love remains unfulfilled.
Pygmalion was a master sculptor in the ancient city of Greece. All day he sculpted beautiful statues from huge pieces of rock. In fact, his creations were so wonderful that whoever saw them were mesmerised by their sheer artistic beauty and exact finish. Pygmalion himself was a fine and handsome young man. He was liked by all men and women. Many women loved him for his great skill and looks.
But Pygmalion never paid attention to any of these women. He saw so much to blame in women that he came at last to abhor the sex, and resolved to live unmarried. He was a sculptor, and with his with wonderful skill he sculpted a beautiful ivory statue which was so lifelike that it was difficult to believe that it was lifeless at the first glance. The beauty was such that no living woman could compete with it. It was indeed the perfect semblance of a maiden that seemed to be alive, and only prevented from moving by modesty. His art was so perfect that it concealed itself and its product looked like the workmanship of nature. Pygmalion spent hours admiring his creation.
By and by Pygmalion's admiration for his own sculpture turned to love. Oftentimes he laid his hand upon it as if to assure himself whether it were living or not, and could not, even then, believe that it was only ivory. He caressed it, and gave it such presents as young girls love - bright shells and polished stones, little birds and flowers of various hues, beads and amber. He adorned his ivory maiden with jewels. He put rainment on its limbs, and jewels on its fingers, and a necklace about its neck. To the ears he hung earrings and strings of pearls upon the breast. Her dress became her, and she looked not less charming than when unattired. He laid her on a couch spread with cloths of Tyrian dye, and called her his wife, and put her head upon a pillow of the softest feathers, as if she could enjoy their softness. He gave the statue a name: "Galatea", meaning "sleeping love'.
But what will be the consequence of falling in love with a lifeless ivory maiden?
The festival of Aphrodite was at hand - a festival celebrated with great pomp at Cyprus. Victims were offered, the altars smoked, and the odor of incense filled the air. When the festivities of Aphrodite started, Pygmalion took part in the ceremonies. He went to the temple of Aphrodite to ask forgiveness for all the years he had shunned her.
When Pygmalion had performed his part in the solemnities, he hesitantly prayed for a wife like his ivory virgin statue. He stood before the altar of Aphrodite and timidly said, "Ye gods, who can do all things, give me, I pray you, for my wife" - he dared not utter "my ivory virgin," but said instead - "one like my ivory virgin."
But Goddess Aphrodite understood what the poor man was trying to say. She was curious. How can a man love a lifeless thing so much? Was it so beautiful that Pygmalion fell in love with his own creation? So she visited the studio of the sculptor while he was away.
What she saw greatly amazed her. For the sculpture had a perfect likeness to her. In fact, it would not have been wrong to say that the sculpture was an image of Aphrodite herself.
Goddess Aphrodite was charmed by Pygmalion's creation. She brought the statue to life.
When Pygmalion returned to his home, he went before Galatea and knelt down before the woman of his dreams. He looked at her lovingly, with a lover's ardour. It seemed to him that Galatea was looking at her lovingly too.
For a moment, it seemed to Pygmalion that it was just a figment of his imagination. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. But no. There was no mistake this time. Galatea was smiling at him.
He laid his hand upon the limbs; the ivory felt soft to his touch and yielded to his fingers like the wax of Hymettus. It seemed to be warm. He stood up; his mind oscillated between doubt and joy. Fearing he may be mistaken, again and again with a lover's ardor he touches the object of his hopes. It was indeed alive! The veins when pressed yielded to the finger and again resumed their roundness. Slowly it dawned on Pygmalion that the animation of his sculpture was the result of his prayer to Goddess Aphrodite who knew his desire. At last, the votary of Aphrodite found words to thank the goddess. Pygmalion humbled himself at the Goddess' feet.
Soon Pygmalion and Galatea were wed, and Pygmalion never forgot to thank Aphrodite for the gift she had given him. Aphrodite blessed the nuptials she had formed, and this union between Pygmalion and Galatea produced a son named Paphos, from whom the city Paphos, sacred to Aphrodite, received its name. He and Galatea brought gifts to her temple throughout their life and Aphrodite blessed them with happiness and love in return.
The unusual love that blossomed between Pygmalion and Galatea enthralls all. Falling in love with one's creation and then getting the desired object as wife- perhaps this was destined for Pygmalion. Even to this day, countless people and young lovers are mesmerized by this exceptional love that existed between two persons at a time when civilization was in its infancy.
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