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Pygmalion and creative enthusiasm


Barbara Baert 


In this article I examine the concept of enthusiasm through the lens of Publius Ovidius’ (43 BC-17 AD) myth of Pygmalion, where ‘inspiration’ and the ‘god within’ are fundamentally thematised. Humanism and the Enlightenment see the connection between Pygmalion and enthusiasm as a captivating aesthetic paradigm. During the Renaissance, the concept of enthusiasm attaches itself to the paragone: the competition between painting and sculpting as art forms. During the Enlightenment, Pygmalion becomes an exemplum for the divine creativity of the artist. Moreover, in the 18th century, the concept of enthusiasm will also develop from a gendered perspective.