Woman – Sacred Trinity of Victorious Seduction (Picasso’s Parody on Males’ Archetypal Perception of Women)

Portrait of Dora Maar by Picasso

It took me some time to notice what later became so obvious – Dora’s right cheek is the Biblical apple. Woman doesn’t have cheeks-as-apples, but apples-as-cheeks. She doesn’t have apple-cheeks. She has cheek-apples. Her apple is she herself. She is the apple that offers itself.

But what about her right hand that seemingly supports her head as if Dora is in a mood of thoughtful tranquility? Doesn’t her hand look like the serpent’s mug full of fangs (Dora’s fingers with protruding nails)? Dora-snake offers us the apple! Dora-snake is the very gesture of the offering Dora-apple.

But Dora’s eyes are really the image of female soul, “tricky, faking and sincere at the same time, dancing in front of us and sliding away, misleading, and fooling the innocent men” – exactly as the ancient archetype of “virile” thinking suggests from the depths of our unconscious.

Woman’s eyes are not looking in front of her naively and straightforwardly. They look simultaneously in different directions – they have this uncanny ability (disability?). Woman’s gaze is always a triple one. Only one eye looks at her man, but another is already searching for other candidates for her amorous attention. But even then her turning away gaze suddenly throws a quick glance back to check how her man is reacting on her “looking around”. Is he jealous? Is he on the alert for the potential competitors? Does he really need her to the point of being in panic of loosing her? Following Dora’s wandering gaze her nose is always turning away from the one who is in front of her. Or is it her gaze that follows her nose?

Second head of Dora-serpent – Dora’s left hand, is resting. If the first is seducing us with the apple what role does the resting hand have in seduction? Is it for a final sting? Portrait of Dora jokingly analyzes man’s typical paranoid view of women that was already depicted albeit more naturalistically in the Biblical Myths of the Fall and the Banishment from Paradise.

The fact that the lower part of Dora’s body is not articulated tells us that Picasso wants to state the relative unimportance of woman’s body as the enigma of creation and as the mystery of our fatal attraction to it. As though Picasso is saying here that men for all the eons of having been acquainted with women have learned pretty satisfactorily how to satisfy woman sexually and how to squeeze satisfaction from her. The problem for men is not woman’s body but her incorrigible soul – her very intelligence that very often transcends man’s cognitive capabilities especially in the context of human life.

Questions intended to stimulate further interpretative efforts:

What is signified by Dora’s ear? Why Picasso has Dora in this constricted room-box instead of a large space? What is suggested by the geometry of the chair that is of a very peculiar (near impossible) design?

Picasso's Dora Maar as Eve, Apple and Serpent