Paul Césaire Gariot (French, 1811–1880)
Pandora’s Box
Oil on panel, 18 x 14 3/4 in.
1996.25

In Greek myth, Pandora was the first woman, created by Zeus to punish men after Prometheus had given them fire. Pandora, whose name in Greek means “all gifts,” carried a jar that she was not allowed to open, as it contained the evils and diseases previously unknown to mankind. Unable to resist her curiosity, however, she did open the jar, and these disasters escaped, bringing an end to the legendary Golden Age. Only Hope remained in the jar as a consolation for mortals. In the ensuing versions of this story, Pandora’s jar became confused with the box that Psyche (the personification of the human soul) was forbidden to open. Here Gariot succeeded in evoking the inevitable fate that looms over the human race by framing the graceful woman in an eerily barren, almost post-apocalyptic landscape.

Born in Toulouse, Gariot received his artistic training at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, where he was awarded a prize for portraiture in 1832. He also worked in Rome and in Paris, where he exhibited mostly religious works at the Salon from 1843 to 1879.