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Hurwit (1995) says that the myth explains why humans must work to survive, that Pandora represents the beautiful figure of dread, something for which men can find no device or remedy. The quintessential woman was created to beguile men with her beauty and uncontrollable sexuality, to introduce falsehood and treachery and disobedience into their lives. Her task was to let loose all the evils upon the world while trapping hope, unavailable to mortal men.

(Hurwit JM. 1995. Beautiful Evil: Pandora and the Athena Parthenos. American Journal of Archaeology 99(2):171-186.)

John William Waterhouse Pandora 1896 oil on canvas

In Greek mythology, Pandora was, according to the myth, the first woman on Earth. She was created by Gods; each one of them gave her a gift, thus, her name in Greek means “the one who bears all gifts”.

The myth itself though appears in many different versions; the most distinctive difference is that in some myths Hope does come out. The main purpose of the myth of Pandora though is to address the question of why evil exists in the world.

The “box” was actually a jar, that was given to Pandora. Pandora was told not to open it by any means necessary, but, due to her ever-growing curiosity, she opened it and out of the vase came great evils which spread widely across the Earth.

Composition of objects for a still life which includes a box to represent the myth of Pandora. A bible/book to represent knowledge and writing. A toppled glass as an omen to impermanence. A decanter for height.

Coloured pastels and charcoal Finding it frustrating as every object is curved rather than straight.

adding a pot to the composition

Etymology of the “box” The word translated as “box” was actually a large jar (πίθος pithos) in Greek. It was used for storage of wine, oil, grain or other provisions, or, ritually, as a container for a human body for burying, from which it was believed souls escaped and necessarily returned. Many scholars see a close analogy between Pandora herself, who was made from clay, and the clay jar which dispenses evils. The mistranslation of pithos is usually attributed to the 16th century humanist Erasmus who, in his Latin account of the story of Pandora, changed the Greek pithos to pyxis meaning “box”.

An Attic pyxis, 440–430 BC. British Museum

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