Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sculpture of the Day: “Pandora,” by John Gibson, 1856

I have represented Pandora as described by Hesiod, and with the fatal box in her hand, drooping her head in deep thought; her eyes are turned a little from the box, whilst her hand is ready to raise the lid. The figure is still and motionless, but the mind is in full activity, labouring under the harassing feelings of intense curiosity, fear and perplexity. Her thoughts have dwelled too long upon the box. Pandora is already lost – we are sufferers, but Hope did not escape with the veil brood, she was shut in, and remains to the last with us.
  --John Gibson

John Gibson, 1856
The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool

In 1856, the Duke of Wellington approached sculptor John Gibson—upon being heartily impressed by an exhibit of the artist’s work—about purchasing a painted or “tinted” figure of Venus which had been part of the exhibition. Venus had already been promised to another patron, so the Duke of Wellington suggested that Gibson create a figure of Pandora that was also “tinted.”

Gibson slaved over the large white marble statue, depicting the exact moment when Pandora decides to open her fabled box. The Duke, however, wasn’t terribly thrilled with the drama of Gibson’s approach and declined on purchasing the marble which had already been painted with wax colors. Luckily for Gibson, the figure appealed to Lady Marian Alford who quickly purchased the piece.

Today, most of the color has been lost to time and wear. However, the mastery of Gibson’s sculpture shines through.

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