Paul Césaire Gariot (French, 1811–1880)
Pandora’s Box, ca. 1877
Oil on panel, 18 x 14 3/4 in.

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 (although it has often been mistranslated as a box) that she was not allowed to open, as it contained all 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. Here Gariot succeeded in evoking the inevitable fate that looms over the human race by framing the graceful woman in an eerily barren landscape. Gariot created at least one other version of this image (1877, private collection), in which Pandora stands rather than sits as she lovingly caresses her box. In both works, however, the female protagonist is set within a craggy wasteland, nude to the waist and her lower body swathed in a deep pink drapery.