The Curiosity of Pandora
- 120 x 100 cm (43 x 39 inches)
- oil paint on linen, with transparent metallic silver paint
by Kelly Borsheim
The famous Greek myth is like so many of our ancient legendary stories about the various qualities of humanity, in that the gods play their antics while the humans, especially women, take the blame. In this case, the first woman created by Hephaestus was called Pandora (whose name means “all gifted”).
Zeus and the gods made her as a punishment to Prometheus for stealing fire and giving it to the humans. She was created to become the wife of the brother of Prometheus, Epimetheus, and she was flawed by design. The gift of a beautiful woman gave the gods the opportunity to play a trick that would hurt Prometheus' beloved humanity. The gift, Curiosity, was from the mischievous god Hermes. Pandora was given many gifts, including the famous container that, once opened, would unleashed the sorrows of the world. Only Hope would remain.
But what was her real curiosity? This is a naughty painting. Note the silhouetted figure of Hermes, himself anticipating Pandora to go for “it.” The phrase "Pandora’s Box" was mistranslated and was originally "jar." So, I took this liberty to strategically place an antique-style olive oil jar directly in front of the spread legs of the male god, a phallus if you choose to see it. She is intrigued and her choice is our undoing. But it takes two to tango and Hermes bears more of the blame. The gods set her up to fail, but in the end, she also gave us Hope.
This figure painting depicts the moments before Pandora's curiosity gets the better of her. Hermes not only entices her, luring her, but waits for the inevitable attraction and action. The Greek god Hermes is silhouetted against the glowing vertical jar as he watches Pandora with a curiosity of his own. In the background of the cave, you see other people looking on in shock, amazement, and with their own curiosity showing.
The silver dress may look opaque or transparent, depending on viewpoint. You will see many little lizards looking in (two are making whoopie), and in the top left, a spider drops into the scene on a single thread. Hermes is recognized by his wings at his ears and feet, as well as the Caduceus that rests on the dirt floor near his left hand.
This oil on linen painting is in mostly neutral colors, but also features a contrast between a cool violet light from the upper left and a warm orange light source from the center right. Enjoy!
Inspiration and Creation of The Curiosity of Pandora Painting:
This painting The Curiosity of Pandora was inspired by seeing a book of the art of Sartorio that I saw in 2009 at my friend Hafiza's home. See below for an important page:
Since the inspiration was also my own curiosity and that sometimes it gets me "into trouble," [nothing serious, relax...no drama here] it made sense that I would use myself as the model for Pandora. I also did that for convenience, although I needed to change the face since Pandora is supposed to be beautiful, really beautiful, and younger than I am. So, I changed the face until I was happy.
Do you notice the painting in process, Sitting on a Shelf, behind me?
Here are links to the Greek myth of Pandora:
Let us face it, everyone has curiosity on some level. It is, as the Pandora myth tells us, a gift from the gods. Or, specifically in the story: the god Hermes. My thought was that Hermes, who also delivered Pandora to her new husband, Epimetheus, was the natural choice to be depicted with Pandora in my painting. I mean, he must be curious about what or when would happen what all the gods must have known WOULD happen. Some say that the Pandora myth is an inspiration of the story of Eve. Two women created by the gods [or a god] as a gift to a male figure, but who eventually are the cause of the pain in the world.
I think I should call myself a "reluctant feminist." I do not like words such as "blame" or "fault." And I do not appreciate jokes or stories that are against an entire group of people. Thus, I feel these old stories are often against women. What purpose does that serve when each one of us is born of a woman and a man?
Yes, it is convenient to have many ancient stories throughout our many civilizations that explain something of our yin and yang reality, as well as more clearly depicting dynamics between different qualities in personalities. However, the most appealing part to me of our myths, fables, and fairy tales are the contradicting parts in each story. No one is all evil or all good.
Also, one finds that the heroine and hero of many a story is often set up by the gods, or an entity with a much greater ability. This, in my mind, means the one with the greater responsibility. It is the male god who gives Pandora the curiosity, knowing how she will give in to it at some point. There would be no story if she resisted, right?
Finally, it is fairly well known, despite not being changed in the common language today, that Pandora's Box is actually a poor translation of Pandora's Jar. That is, unless one appreciates the naughty meaning of the English word "box," which is just mean to say that opening that box unleashing the evils in the world. hahah. I chose to depict the jar because the shape resembles more the male counterpart and have placed it accordingly in my composition. So, I ask you, "What was the newly realized Pandora really curious about?"
In this image, I am laying in the tones, putting the brightest light on the object of curiosity. Pandora is really the secondary point of interest. [Yes, the canvas was later re-stretched.]
The eye goes first to the highest point of contrast. Below, the jar is lit from within, while Hermes will be a dark silhouette against the jar. Have you ever wondered why the myth says that all of the evils in the world were inside the jar and the only positive attribute included is Hope? Why would the gods have chosen that?
It is said that Zeus devised this whole scheme as revenge or a "complimentary gift" to the humans since Epimetheus' brother Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give to the human race. Is it not interesting that Hope somehow managed to get trapped inside, before and after the opening of the jar?
Here I am designing the silver dress, a gift from Athena. I did read that Pandora was given lots of jewelry, including necklaces and elaborate crowns (depending on whose interpretations of the myth one reads). I liked her adorned, but I also like the idea of her being of the Earth. Her beauty should not be missed because of too much bling.
Below: Making corrections in charcoal directly on the canvas of Pandora
So, this painting was started in 2014, just after I moved out of an expensive large apartment that a now ex-friend bailed on his rental agreement with me. I moved temporarily into a small room in Firenze, Italia, vacated by a friend of mine. I was lucky. It was one of the larger rooms at The Salvation Army, with a balcony overlooking a small garden (instead of facing a loud street), and had a private bathroom in my room. A shared kitchen was of little concern. The harder part was moving all of my stuff into this space.
My visa to stay in Italia was running out, so this room was perfect since I needed no contract. It gave me the flexibility to look for a real home. However, I moved to Croatia (Umago, Istria, to be exact) thanks to an artist friend I met at a stone carving symposium in Bulgaria. Croatia was not part of Schengen, so I stayed 89 days, with a short trip to visit a cherished family I know in Serbia. After my 90-day "exile" from Schengen Countries, I was able to re-enter Italia and stay another 90 days, but that time without a visa and as a tourist.
The timing was all perfect, after all. I returned just in time to drop my suitcase back in this room in Firenze and continue on the train to Roma. I took a 3-day workshop with Nathan Fowkes there. I wanted to use my new Wacom computer that a very dear friend talked me into buying. Well, I did not have an external keyboard for it and that seemed to throw Nathan a bit. I did not know enough to know better.
In any event, the main idea that I got from the workshop was to add a secondary light source to the cave scene, and in an opposing color to the orange-browns. I found this interesting, but also in line with other recent explorations into similar colors, such as the Hope Lion painting I did after a trip to Madrid.
Here you see that I am adding in some other story-telling details. The small lyre was a gift from the gods to Pandora, as well. And one of the symbols to identify Hermes is the caduceus. I sketch in charcoal since this painting is one of my longer projects and means that the oil paint in that section was very dry.
Below, in the little bathroom, I am again playing model and studying how a firelight would fall on the face of my Pandora. Sometimes I wish that I had three hands.
Now, I have moved the painting outside onto my balcony. I need to get back from it to make better decisions. There is a room next to mine and that occupant Grazia shares the very long balcony. Walking this length, I need not take the painting downstairs to examine my progress.
The above image was taken in the spring of 2015 in Firenze, Italia [Florence, Italy]. In May 2015, I moved all of my things into storage, returning to Italy with a new visa that October, and finding a home in the hills of Valleriana in Tuscany by December.
Sadly, I had a lot of transitioning to do. Pandora sat untouched for several years. I found her a bit intimidating and knew that I would come back to her once I had some missing pieces found. My inspiration happened while my brother Steve and I were traveling around Spain while his daughter enjoyed a two-week university class in Madrid. These next images are from Isla, in the north of Spain. When I saw these rocks, I immediately thought of Pandora!
I am happy to present this multi-figure composition to you. Oh, and what is really nice about the silver dress: depending on your position of viewing and the lights, the dress may look opaque or transparent. How cool is that?
The Curiosity of Pandora
120 x 100 cm (43 x 39 inches)
oil paint on linen by Kelly Borsheim