rape of persephone statue
“The Rape of Proserpina” (side view). Image Credit: Wikipedia
The intricate, lifelike details with which Bernini imbued the sculpture further this story and give it an emotional depth that connects with the viewer. The way Proserpina’s hand presses into and distorts Pluto’s face, and the impression that Pluto’s hand makes in Proserpina’s leg, serve to tell the story. These details inform us of the unwanted advances, as well as the sexual nature of the scene. The fact that the bodies are partially clothed, their genitalia hidden, only adds to the sensuality of this moment. The story is told through a corporeal representation that reaches to the core passions of every human being. The emphasis on the visceral is a common expository technique in Baroque sculpture. 7
As with many of Bernini’s early works, it was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, possibly alongside a portrait of Scipione’s uncle Pope Paul V (who had died in 1621). Bernini received at least three payments for the statue, of value of at least 450 Roman scudi. The sculpture was begun in 1621 and completed in 1622. Quite soon after its completion, the statue was given by Scipione to Cardinal Ludovisi in 1622, who transported it to his villa. Purchased by the Italian State, it returned to the Villa Borghese in 1908. 
However, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when Bernini’s reputation was at a low ebb, critics found fault with the statue. The eighteenth-century French visitor Jerome de la Lande allegedly wrote: “Pluto’s back is broken; his figure extravagant, without character, nobleness of expression, and its outline bad; the female one no better”.  Another French visitor to the Villa Ludovisi was equally critical, stating: “The head of Pluto is vulgarly gay; his crown and beard give him a ridiculous air, while the muscles are strongly marked and the figure poses. It is not a true divinity, but a decorative god. ” 
Crafted in the early 17th century, this marble sculpture illustrates several of Bernini’s strong suits, including his mastery of anatomy and ability to evoke both dynamism and drama. While these achievements continue to garner praise for the sculptor today, its unsavory subject matter has cast a controversial shadow over the work—though it remains a quintessential highlight of both the Baroque era and of marble sculpture as a whole.
Like many of Bernini’s earlier works, The Rape of Proserpina was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, an avid art collector and devoted patron of both Bernini and fellow Baroque artist Caravaggio. On the heels of the High Renaissance, people remained interested in reviving a Classical approach to art—including subjects inspired by Ancient Greek and Roman mythology.
Demeter begged Zeus to command the release of her daughter, and Persephone was told that she would be released from the underworld, as long as she didn’t consume any food while she was there. But when she thought no one was looking, Persephone went into the garden and ate six pomegranate seeds. She was thus doomed to spend six months of the year with Hades, while for the other six months she could return to Earth to see her mother. The myth holds that the months Persephone spends in the underworld leave the earth cold, dark, and wintry, but when she returns, spring and summer accompany her.
The Rape of Persephone
The Rape of Proserpina (Italian: Ratto di Proserpina) is a large Baroque marble sculptural group by Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, executed between 1621 and 1622. Bernini was only 23 years old at its completion. It depicts the Abduction of Proserpina, who is seized and taken to the underworld by the god Pluto.  
Others have remarked on the twisted contrapposto or figura serpentinata pose of the group. While reminiscent of Mannerism, particularly Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, Bernini permits the viewer to absorb the scene from one single viewpoint. While other views provide further details, a spectator can see the desperation of Proserpina and the lumbering attempts of Pluto to grab her. This was in contrast to the Mannerist sculpture of Giambologna, which required the spectator to walk around the sculpture to gain a view of each of character’s expression.