Rodin Works: polyphem


Polyphème, plaster, Musée Dr. Faure

The literary source of this figure came from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, like of so many of Rodin’s mythological works. The Cyclops Polyphemus fell in love with the nymph Galatea, who in turn was loved by Acis, a Sicilian shepherd. One day Polyphemus took his musical instrument compositing of numerous pipes and made the hills and the waters echo the music of his love song. Galatea lay hid under a rock by the side of her beloved Acis, and listened to Polyphemus's praises of her beauty, mingled with passionate reproaches of her coldness and cruelty. When Polyphemus had finished, he wandered into the woods and discovered Acis and Polypheme, BelfortGalatea hiding beneath the rocks together. Furious and jealous, he hurled a large stone at them. Galatea could escape by a jump into the sea, but Acis, fleeting, was pursued by Polyphemus and overwhelmed.

In the composition of Rodin the mythological scenery is more generalized: the one-eyed cyclop is turned into a two-eyed man. The group is dominated by the diagonal stretched body of the giant, who , contrary to all imagination of gigantic and muscular, appears elongated and rather thin.

Despite Rodin's original intention the composition was never inserted in 'The Gates'. Perhaps the whole group was too complicated and too particular in its iconography,  Tancock suggests. The figure of Polyphemus, however, does appear in 'The Gates' above the center of the right panel. A terra-cotta version of the isolated figure is in the Musée Dr. Faure in Aix-les-Bains.



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