Raphael's Triumph of Galatea, a fresco created around 1512 for the Villa Farnesina in Rome, depicts a scene later in the life of the Nereid, when Galatea triumphs in a shell chariot pulled by dolphins.
In Greek mythology, Galatea (meaning "she who is white as milk") is a sea nymph known as Nereid. Although it had appeared in other classical Greek tales, the story of Galatea and Acis first appeared in Ovid's The Metamorphoses. She falls in love with Acis, a beautiful mortal herdsman who is the son of Faunus, god of the forest, and the nymph of the river Symaethis. Although her heart belongs to Acis, Galatea is also haunted by the Sicilian Cyclops Polyphemus. Polyphemus is enraged by the affair of Galatea and Acis, and hits Acis with a rock, killing him instantly. Blood then oozes from the stone, and a grief-stricken Galatea turns Acis's blood into the Sicilian Acis River, where he is immortalized as a spirit.
Although the fresco is inspired by the story of Acis and Galatea, Raphael has not chosen a scene depicting the star-crossed lovers together. Instead, he has portrayed Galatea as she achieves apotheosis, meaning that upon her death she would ascend to join the fully divine beings, as a reward for her patience and endurance through the trials and tribulations experienced in her life.
To the left of the painting, a half-man, half-fish Triton kidnaps a sea nymph, while another plays a shell trumpet. The work is inspired by La Giostra ("the carousel"), a work by the poet Poliziano, who was a tutor to the Medici, the ruling family of Florence, and one of the great pan-European intellectuals of the time. He had begun writing La Giostra in honor of Giuliano de' Medici's victory in a tournament in 1475. He abandoned it three years later, following the conspiracy of the Pazzi family, who tried to overthrow the Medici as rulers of Florence, during the which Giuliano was stabbed to death during high mass in the city's Duomo. Poliziano saved the life of Giuliano's brother Lorenzo by locking him in the sacristy of the Cathedral.
Raphael's fresco was commissioned for the Villa Farnesina by Agostino Chigi, an enormously wealthy Sienese banker, who was treasurer to Pope Julius II. He had the villa built in the Trastevere area of Rome by Baldassarre Peruzzi between 1506 and 1510. It was purchased in 1577 by the Farnese family, whose members included Pope Paul III and Elisabeth Farnese, who became Queen of Spain at the beginning of the century XVIII. The building, whose main attraction is still the Raphael fresco, is open to the public.
The Triumph Of Galatea is ranked no. 20 on the list of famous paintings
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