reply to post by Slave NO MORE
Wow, thanks for posting this! I found myself coming back to the large image of this painting
repeatedly this afternoon, each time to see what new meaning I might find in it.
Here's what I see in it, based on my own personal interpretation, & the fact that someone
saw enough in this painting to decide that it belonged hanging in a courthouse hallway:
The 2 figures to either side of the woman appear to me to be 2 facets of the same concept.
Note the similar hats & collars worn by both; the shadows cast by the hats are especially
similar in appearance. The horned man could be a representation of Nature in the form of Pan,
complete with a rulebook on the laws of Nature. The man on our right could represent Civilization (or the civilizing of ourselves as we mature),
complete with a rulebook of the laws created by society in an attempt to bring order against the more freewheeling natural impulses we all have.
The woman wears a mask, to me signifying that she has taken on her adult identity, largely
a construct based on the person she believes
she should be, & possibly not who she
. The mask, IMO, can serve to conceal who she truly is to herself as well as
to others. The man on our right wears a stiff, formal face, an artificial construct representing
the "proper" behavior in society. I see him as more of a harlequin (a type of clown), but
with much more of his "humanity" showing through the makeup than is usual. Pan, as a
force of Nature, wears no mask. He just is
The dolls on the top shelf of the closet signify that though this woman has put away the
childlike part of herself, the self closer to nature, she is still very much in possession of her
"inner child". The fact that she is nude under a failing attempt at concealment suggests that
her true self is visible to both male figures, & to us, who view the painting. Pan's outfit
suggests that our natural origins can still communicate with us in more modern times. The
bare chest & stomach of the other male figure suggest to me the human-designed &
oriented origins of our current legal system.
Pan is assuring the woman that it's okay to yield to her natural impulses, quoting from his
rule book & making the sign of the horns, a traditional way to ward off harmful influences,
as he does so. His closeness with her suggests this woman's close ties to her natural
origin, & the associated power of her natural drives, instincts, & emotions. Note the
alignment of the feet of both Pan & the woman; their legs may be crossed, suggesting
some separation, but their feet tell another story. She is very much under his influence!
Now we come to the part that suggests to me what allowed this painting to end up hanging
where it is: the figure representing the laws of society recognizes what is happening,
acknowledging the woman's (or our) close ties to her natural impulses, instincts, etc, but
stands by to offer a steadying hand on her shoulder against any possible "improper"
(illegal) behavior on her part, brought on by the admittedly powerful influence of her true
I think the artist chose a woman as the subject of attention between the other 2 figures to
enable more of a sense of a seducer on one side of her, & a guardian on the other, in
whoever views the painting. While the same idea may work with 2 women to either side of a
man, I think the woman as the subject inspires more natural concern in a wider audience, &
in turn more involvement in trying to determine what's being portrayed.
Thanks not only to the OP for posting this fascinating work, but also to those who proposed translations for the titles of the books, which helped me
to form my ideas on the message behind the symbolism.