There’s a long tradition of stories and fables where art either comes to life, traps a live person, or seems to be alive to the point where someone falls in love the subject. Here’s a few that immediately come to my mind:
- Apelles and Campaspe: Campaspe was Alexander the Great’s courtesan. Apelles, the greatest painter in Ancient Greece, was commissioned to paint her portrait; but while painting her he fell in love. He knew that the day he finished the painting, he and Campaspe would have to part, so he delayed as long as he could; but finally Alexander asked for her portrait. After taking one look at the portrait, Alexander knew Apelles loved Campaspe more than he ever could. Calling the painter forward, Alexander offered Apelles a trade: he’d take the portrait and in exchange, Apelles could have the living and breathing woman.
- Praxiteles and the statue of Venus: Praxiteles created a statue of Venus for her temple that was so lifelike, patrons paid to spend the night in the temple with her. Alone. Let’s just say they had to wash the statue down in the morning. According to some legends, the statue’s model was Phryne, the most beautiful courtesan in Ancient Greece. She and Campaspe are sometimes confused.
- Pygmalion: Pygmalion, of course, created a statue that Venus granted life to after he fell in love with her.
- The Picture of Dorian Grey: Dorian is a beautiful young man who face doesn’t reflect his inner deviousness. However, there’s a portrait filled with ugly in his attic that does.
- The Witches: There’s a story in The Witches by Roald Dahl where a young girl named Erica is stolen by a witch and trapped in a painting, growing up and spending her entire life within it. Pretty creepy.
- Laura: In this mystery, a detective in New York City tries to solve the murder of a woman whose beautiful portrait captivates him.
- The Salon: In this graphic novel, members of the Steins’ group of artist and intellectual friends in Paris are being picked off by a brutal killer who seems to be living in the paintings of deceased former member, Paul Gauguin.
And this list is just of stories I know of. What do they all have in common? They all have something to do with sex and the gaze. They all suggest that a truth lies in the image that’s hidden by ordinary life.