The Rape of Proserpina was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the fabulously wealthy nephew of Pope Paul V (r. 1605-21), and executed between 1621 and 1622 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), who was just twenty-three years old when he completed it.
The sculpture depicts the abduction of Proserpina (Greek: Persephone) by Pluto (Hades), god of the the Underworld. Proserpina was the daughter of Jupiter (Zeus) and Ceres (Demeter), the goddess of agriculture.
While out picking flowers, Proserpina was seized by Pluto, who burst from the earth. Ceres heard her scream as she was being dragged into the underworld. In response to the abduction of her daughter, Ceres caused the earth to dry up and the harvests to fail. Jupiter saw that the earth was barren and dead and decided to intervene. He struck a deal with Pluto: Proserpina would spend half the year on earth and half in the underworld.
Blogging about Rome:
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
Search Walks in Rome: