Art - Pandora by Rossetti

by Erin on May 9, 2012

Today, let’s take a look at the painting Pandora by Nineteenth century artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Before I begin with the work of art, I’d like to offer some background about the intriguing mythological character who is the subject of Rossetti’s image. Read on to learn a bit more about Pandora.

Pandora plays an intriguing role in Greek mythology. According to one version of the legend, she was the first woman. She was created by the ruler of the gods, Zeus. Zeus was assisted in his task by other Greek deities, including Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, who used her powers to bestow upon Pandora grace and loveliness; Hermes, messenger of the gods, gave Pandora persuasion; and Apollo, god of music and the arts, favored the woman with musical skill. Because of the gifts of the gods, Pandora was very attractive - her name even means “all gifts”.

However, Pandora had one flaw - she was extremely curious. When she encountered a jar (or, in some versions, a box) that belonged to Epimetheus, she could not resist learning about its mysterious contents, and so she simply opened it. This jar contained all of the evils, which were then released into the world. The only thing that remained in the jar was hope (which, incidentally, the Greeks referred to as elpis).

This part of myth is depicted in Rossetti’s image. The emphasis is on Pandora, her hand poised over the box that contains the evils that are shown escaping as a cloud of smoke. This billowing smoke is enveloping Pandora, and forming a sort of halo around her head. As with many of Rossetti’s images of women, Pandora is a languid beauty with flowing hair and a pensive expression.

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