For several months now, we have been walking you through mystical destinations and telling you about the unique art of world-renowned Italian artists. Today we will end our series of stories about masterful sculptures with veils with The Abduction of Proserpine. It is a large baroque sculpture made of marble. It was created by Italian artist Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini when he was only 23 years old. The sculpture depicts the abduction of Proserpine, who was captured by the god Pluto and taken to the underworld.
Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini was born in Naples in 1598. In addition to art, he is engaged in architecture, urban planning, scenography, and drama. In his art, he is often described as a versatile artist. To this day, he is considered one of the best creators of Baroque figurative culture. His work was a great success and dominated the European scene for more than a century after his death.
As an architect and urban planner, Bernini designed secular buildings, churches, chapels, and squares. He took on any task with the idea of combining architecture and sculpture, especially in more complex projects
such as fountains or monuments. His technique, ingenuity, and skills in processing marble ensured that he would be considered a worthy successor to Michelangelo, ahead of other sculptures of his generation. His talent extended beyond the boundaries of sculpture, all the way to examining the overall setting in which his work would be located. His ability to synthesize sculpture, painting, and architecture in a consistent conceptual and visual unity has been called by art historian Irving Lavigne “the unity of the visual arts”.
The statue Abduction of Proserpine was inspired by the myths of the goddess Proserpine and the god Pluto. It was about the goddess, who played in the green forests of Sicily while her mother, the goddess Ceres, sowed, watered the plants, and made the trees bloom and bear fruit. Pluto, the god of the dead, did not live on Mount Olympus, but reigned underground, in cold and darkness. No woman wanted to give up the splendor of light, warmth, and beauty of nature to become the queen of the underworld. One day Pluto saw Proserpine as she gathered flowers in the greenery of Sicily, and as soon as he saw her, he fell in love with her.
However, knowing that if he went to ask Ceres to marry her, they would both reject his proposal, he decided to kidnap her with the consent of Jupiter.
The rest is a story that inspires artists around the world. Bernini’s work manages to capture the action in its heyday and offers the observer the perfectly expressed emotions of the characters. Pluto is distinguished by its royal attributes – crown and scepter, while behind him the ferocious guardian of Hades, Cerberus, checks that no one is obstructing the path of the master, turning his three heads in all directions. Proserpine struggled in vain to escape Pluto’s fury by pressing her left hand against his face. For his part, however, he holds her tight, literally digging his fingers into her thigh. With this detail, through which Bernini makes the tenderness of Proserpine’s flesh with remarkable plausibility, the sculptor demonstrates his astonishing virtuosity.
Bernini created his works, recreating the mythical characters depicted as almost real figures. What is missing from “The Abduction of Proserpine” is the depiction of the movers. Proserpine’s posture is slightly unnatural
and resembles a spiral shape. However, the pose is undoubtedly theatrical and has a great emotional and visual impact on the viewer.
The work can be viewed from all sides. Looking at Pluto from the left, one actually discovers that the god is just beginning to flee, while if you look at Proserpine diagonally, you can see how her eyes from this position seem to look straight at the viewer.
The sculpture is perfectly finished and is rich in details that still capture the attention of the observer.
Bernini’s mastery is evident from every angle. The most commented part of the sculpture, however, is a detail of the flesh of Proserpine, gently yielding to the strong grip of Pluto. The author has recreated the female body and its forms so naturally as if at any moment she will break free from the grasp of Pluto and escape. His body is muscular and masculine, and his thick beard and lush curls flutter during the fight.
The work was purchased by the Italian state only in 1908 and moved to the Borghese Gallery on a pedestal designed by Pietro Fortunati.