Rape of Proserpina

Rape of Proserpina 01 Ludwig Haskins

Rape of Proserpina 02 Ludwig Haskins

The Rape of Proserpina, a bronze statue in the V&A Museum London dates from about 1565 and is said to be based on a model by Vincenzo de Rossi (1525-1587).

It shows Pluto, the king of the underworld, carrying off Proserpina (daughter of Ceres the Roman Goddess of the harvest and Jupiter) with whom he had instantly fallen in love.

In the original story Pluto thunders out of the underworld in a chariot drawn by four black horses and uses the plaintiff cries of the nymph Echo to deceive Ceres into looking in the wrong place for her abducted daughter. The story is said to be the origin of April’s fools day.

Pluto forced Proserpina to be his bride. Jupiter sends Mercury to demand his daughter’s release.

What Jupiter did not know was that Proserpina has sealed her fate. She had eaten three pomegranate seeds. It is said that if you have eaten the food of the dead, you can not return to the world of the living, but Pluto made a deal. Proserpina was allowed to return to the Earth but she must spend three months each year, winter, with her husband. It was agreed upon and is thus the mythical reason for winter punctuating the seasons.

The most famous statue of this mythical abduction was sculpted by Bernini half a century later at the unbelievably young age of 23 in 1621. It’s housed in the Villa Borghese in Rome.

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