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The Rape of Proserpina

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1621-1622

Marble

Rome, Galleria Borghese

Source Carlo Gossini

The Rape of Proserpina is a large baroque marble sculptural group by Bernini executed between 1621 and 1622. It depicts Proserpine being seized and taken to the underworld by Pluto.

The twisted contraposto pose is reminiscent of Mannerism, and allows the simultaneous depiction of the abduction (as seen from the left, with Pluto striding to grasp her), the arrival in the underworld (as seen from the front, he appears triumphantly bearing his trophy in his arms) and her prayer to her mother Ceres to return to the real world 6 months a year (as seen from the right one, with Proserpina's tears, the wind blowing her hair, and Cerberus barking). Pushing against Pluto's face Proserpina's hand creases his skin, while his fingers sink into the flesh of his victim.

Bernini's principal patron Scipione Borghese funded it but then gave it to Cardinal Ludovisi in 1622, who took it to his villa. It remained there until 1908, when the Italian state purchased it and returned it to the Galleria Borghese.

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