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Jean Cousin the Elder - Eva Prima Pandora

by Alexandra Tuschka

A naked woman lies full of format in the picture. Who we see before us is no secret: "Eva Prima Pandora" is written on an inscription board above the naked woman. The woman is leaning on a skull. Her left hand rests on a container and only a cloth covers the sitter's shame. Through the archway opening in the background, a city can be seen. In the archway stands a golden vase.

Pandora is called the first woman of the earth in Greek mythology. Thus she represents a counterpart to the Christian Eve. And in her story, too, a so-called "fall from grace" occurs:

Zeus ordered Pandora to be created from clay. She was to punish Prometheus, who had stolen fire from the gods. Pandora was endowed with all sorts of lovely qualities. Then Zeus gave her a box in which all the plagues of the world were enclosed. Pandora delivered it to Prometheus' brother Epimetheus, who accepted the box against a warning and opened it. Now the plagues contained in it escaped and ended the golden age of mankind. However, the box also contained hope, which was released when Pandora opened it a second time.

In this nude painting, mythological and Christian influences are combined: in the right hand we see the apple, reminiscent of Eve's temptation, and in the center of the picture, Pandora's box. The skull on which she leans is a vanitas symbol, calling to mind the viewer's own transience. The image is to be understood as an urgent warning to the latter not to give in to the seductions and the dangerousness of woman.

Jean Cousin the Elder - Eva Prima Pandora

Oil on canvas, 1550, 97 x 150 cm, Musée du Louvre in Paris


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