Pandora (For A Picture)
What of the end, Pandora? Was it thine,
The deed that set these fiery pinions free?
Ah! wherefore did the Olympian consistory
In its own likeness make thee half divine?
Was it that Juno's brow might stand a sign
For ever? and the mien of Pallas be
A deadly thing? and that all men might see
In Venus' eyes the gaze of Proserpine?
What of the end? These beat their wings at will,
The ill-born things, the good things turned to ill,—
Powers of the impassioned hours prohibited.
Aye, clench the casket now! Whither they go
Thou mayst not dare to think: nor canst thou know
If Hope still pent there be alive or dead.
Poem: Pandora (For a Picture), 1881
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Pandora, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University
Pandora: Analysis and Comentary.
Today we are going to analyse and compare a double work by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a picture and a poem, both from the same date, 1879 (http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/s224.r-1.rap.html), and dealing with the same topic: the Greco-Latin mythological character Pandora. the Greek gods Hephaestus and Athena created, with the help from the other gods and the supervision of Zeus. Every god gave her a quality, such as beauty, grace… And Hephaestus gave her the constant lying and deceit.She was created to bring men disfortune, as a punishment for having stolen the divine fire (http://www.abcgallery.com/mythology/pandora.html). When she married Epimetheus *the brother of Prometheus, who stole the divine fire), she received a box from the Gods of the Olympus, but she was not allowed to open the box. But she did it, and all the evils of the world came out, and in the bottom of the box just was the Hope (Cristina Arnau.). Pandora could be compared to the Biblical Eve, because the curiosity of both Pandora and Eve, bring men evil. The world is not innocent any more, since then, men and women are exposed to disgraces and have to work to live. Both of them are the reencarnation of femme fatale, they drive men to disgrace.
Now we are going to analyse the poem. The poem is structured in one stanza of fourteen verses. In the text Rossetti is not blaming Pandora for everything she has caused, she is a mere instrument, a weapon, of the gods, who want to punish the men. She is not the evil because for herself, but of the men (the deed that set these fieny pinions free?, verse 2), who had stolen the divine fire and had betrayed the gods, and she represents divinities’ features in herself, features that are marvellous in the gods, but not in hers (Was it that Juno’s brow might see a sign/ For ever? And the mien of Pallas be/ A deadly thing? And that all men might see/ in Venus’ eyes the gaze of Prosserpine? Verses 5 to 8). Actually, she is a victim, because she represents evil, but she has not done anything evil to be treated like that. She is, as we have said before, a symbol.
And now it is time to analyse the picture. In my opinion, the picture and the poem reflects the victimism of Pandora. In the picture we can see Pandora, in three-quarter length, dressed with a white and grey tunic. She holds the box, the casket that Rossetti tells her to hold (Aye, clench the casket now, verse 12). We can see that she still has innocence, in her white clothes, but there is a shadow of evilness inside, as we can see in the tone grey of her clothes and the shadows that show parts of her body. We also can see her innocence in her look. She is not looking at the painter, she is looking at nothing at all. She has an absent look, reflecting the innocence, because she is not looking at the casket; she doesn’t know what is inside the box, althoug she knows that it is valuable, it is golden, that is why she is holding the casket with both hands.
And we can see the main characteristic of Pandora in the painting: her two faces. On the one hand, she is a beautiful woman, with a natural grace; on the other hand, she is betraying the men, all the evil is in the world because of her; she is the punishment of the men. Rossetti shows the two faces of Pandora playing with the light of the picture: on the top of it, we can see light, the right side of Pandora, but as we are looking down the picture, it becomes darker, from her clothes, which in the top are white with a touch of grey, and in the bottom are almost black, to the hands: the hand on the top of the basket is perfectly visible whereas the hand under the box is almost invisible, it is a dark hand, hidden, we only can see the two fingers, holding the box.
To sum up, we can see that both poem and picture show Rossetti’s vision of Pandora, a two-faced woman, a woman that is beautiful but harmful, but also innocent, a woman who cannot control her actions, a woman controlled by the fate, and designed to make people suffer.
ü Rosseti Archive.com
Edited by Jerome J. Gann
ü Liverpool Museums.com
©2006 National Museums Liverpool.
ü http://www.abcgallery.com/mythology/pandora.html 15.04.2006
ü Cristina Arnau. 2nd of Bachillerato’s Greek Lessons. 2002-2003