Formal Analysis: the Triumph of Galatea

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Date Submitted: 09/30/2012 01:57 PM

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The Triumph of Galatea, an oil-on-canvas painting, now in the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison Wisconsin (Figure 1), was painted by Noel-Nicolas Coypel in the early eighteenth century. The framed image is thirty-six inches tall by fifty inches wide. The subject of this painting is a young woman reclined in a relaxed position with her arm above her head casually holding a drapery. Although this young woman dominates the main pictorial area there are other figures and a landscape background present. The painting is a visual mythological narrative. Through color, line, and space Coypel created a richly idealized mythological scene displaying Galatea’s triumph and victory.

Coypel used a wide variety of colors, ranging from subtle earthly tones to rich vibrant hues. The viewer’s initial focus is drawn to the center where the dominant color is red. The woman in the center is holding a large piece of scarlet drapery above her head as it seems to blow behind her in the wind. All of the bright dramatic colors used by Coypel are presented in the foreground of the painting with the exception of the bright blue used in the top left corner to illustrate the sky. The woman, who is the main focal point, is displayed wearing a richly colored blue garment that draws the viewer’s eye to her and away from the other figures. In addition, the pale ivory color of her skin draws attention to the rosy red in her cheeks and the soft blonde of her hair. This strongly contrasts with the subdued natural brown colors of two of the other figures hair and skin which furthermore draws the viewer’s eye to the woman. The dark blue, tan, brown, and gray tones in the landscape background are also very passive as to not take away attention from the subject. These neutral tones are used in the mountains and ocean in varying degrees to give the illusion of light reflecting off surfaces. For example in the upper right corner a man is perched on a cliff with a dark cloud above him, however,...