“He entered and took a seat in the pit, crowded between two unconscionably stout abbati; but luckily he was quite near the stage…Suddenly a whirlwind of applause greeted the appearance of the prima donna. She came forward coquettishly to the footlights and curtsied to the audience with infinite grace. The brilliant light, the enthusiasm of a vast multitude, the illusion of the stage, the glamor of a costume which was most attractive for the time, all conspired in that woman’s favor. Sarrasine cried aloud with pleasure. He saw before him at that moment the ideal beauty whose perfections he had hitherto sought here and there in nature, taking from one model, often of humble rank, the rounded outline of a shapely leg, from another the contour of the breast; from another her white shoulders; stealing the neck of that young girl, the hands of this woman, and the polished knees of yonder child, but never able to find beneath the cold skies of Paris the rich and satisfying creations of ancient Greece. La Zambinella displayed in her single person, intensely alive and delicate beyond words, all those exquisite proportions of the female form which he had so ardently longed to behold, and of which a sculptor is the most severe and at the same time the most passionate judge. She had an expressive mouth, eyes instinct with love, flesh of dazzling whiteness. And add to these details, which would have filled a painter’s soul with rapture, all the marvelous charms of the Venuses worshiped and copied by the chisel of the Greeks. The artist did not tire of admiring the inimitable grace with which the arms were attached to the body, the wonderful roundness of the throat, the graceful curves described by the eyebrows and the nose, and the perfect oval of the face, the purity of its clean-cut lines, and the effect of the thick, drooping lashes which bordered the large and voluptuous eyelids. She was more than a woman; she was a masterpiece! In that unhoped-for creation there was love enough to enrapture all mankind, and beauties calculated to satisfy the most exacting critic.
“Sarrasine devoured with his eyes what seemed to him Pygmalion’s statue descended from its pedestal. When La Zambinella sang, he was beside himself.