Pandora in Art and Culture

According to our understanding of Greek mythology, Pandora was the
first woman created by the gods and given to the humans. According to
various versions of the myth she was a true gift to them, or a trap, or
even a punishment for accepting forbidden fire. One way or another, she was
gifted with great beauty and important skills and charms. Pandora’s very
name means “All Gifted,” and suggests that the gods were most generous to
her and to humans through her. However, she was also gifted with a magic
jar she was instructed never to open.(Over time this jar was changed into
a box in most retellings) When her curiosity ot the better of her and she
opened the box, all the ills of the world were released. At the bottom of
This archetypical story of how woman infected the world with evil is
closely related, and one might even say identical, to the Judeo-Christian
story of Eve and the forbidden fruit. Historically Pandora has been
consistently morphed with Eve in retellings and art. As with her Judeo-
Christian counterpart, the way that society has approached Pandora and her
story are a sort of litmus test for the way that society approaches women
and their mythological and philosophical relationship to that society. It
is interesting to see how Pandora’s reflections in art have subtly and
certainly changed over the centuries.
Pandora was a popular figure in Grecian art, and generally
represented as an idealized female progenitor. By the time of the
Renaissance she had been sexualized and more thoroughly associated with
death, and the sins and dangers of seductive Eve. Still the box takes a
secondary place in the focus of the artwork. During the Protestant
influenced baroque period her grace and beauty was stripped away leaving
only the bloated distortion of female lust and greed behind. At that point
she begins to be seen opening the box, and releasing its ills. Yet by …


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