the rape of persephone statue

The rape of persephone statue
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. [3]
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”. [8] 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. ” [9]

The rape of persephone statue
Most critics have been quick to praise the work. Rudolf Wittkower noted: “representations of such rape scenes depended on Bernini’s new, dynamic conception for the next hundred and fifty years”. [4] Howard Hibbard makes similar comments noting the realistic effects that Bernini had achieved via carving hard marble, such as the “texture of the skin, the flying ropes of hair, the tears of Persephone and above all the yielding flesh of the girl”. [5] The choice of incident to depict the story is commonly cited as well: Pluto’s hands encircle the waist of Proserpina just as she throws her arms out in an attempt to escape. [6] Bernini’s own son and biographer, Domenico, called it “an amazing contrast of tenderness and cruelty”. [7]
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”. [8] 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. ” [9]

The rape of persephone statue
Measuring nearly 7.5 feet tall, the piece is carved from Carrara marble, a material derived from Tuscany and historically used by ancient Roman builders and, more recently, by Mannerist and Renaissance artists. The softness of this high-quality marble lended itself to Bernini’s craft, as he “prided himself on being able to give marble the appearance of flesh.”
This piece portrays a moment from the myth of Pluto and Proserpina (also known as Proserpine), a tale present in both Metamorphoses by Ovid, a Roman poet from the 1st century CE, and De raptu Proserpinae, a piece written 400 years later by the Latin writer Claudian.

The rape of persephone statue
Cardinal Scipione Borghese
The Rape of Persephone

The rape of persephone statue
The contorted, serpentine configurations of the figures’ bodies expand upon this dynamism; they invite the viewer to move around the sculpture, view it from every side, and become a part of the dynamic story. By forcing the audience to actively view the piece, Bernini ensures that the viewer’s experience of the sculpture is expanded and dynamic in its own right.
This sculpture was commissioned by Cardinal Borghese of the Catholic Church and is still located in the Galleria Borghese—the room for which it was commissioned—in Rome, Italy. It depicts the Roman mythological story of the abduction and subsequent rape of Proserpina by the god, Pluto.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rape_of_Proserpina
http://mymodernmet.com/bernini-the-rape-of-proserpina/
http://www.artble.com/artists/gian_lorenzo_bernini/sculpture/the_rape_of_persephone
http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/deb2170/the-rape-of-prosperina/
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rape_of_Proserpina

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *