the rape of proserpina bernini
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. ” 
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, “The Rape of Proserpina,” 1622, Marble. Commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy. Image Credit: Columbia University
This depiction captures the scene at the climax of the moment; Pluto is lifting Proserpina into the air, and she is visibly fighting back. This snapshot in time contains a considerable amount of life-like detail. These details, like the expression of fear on Proserpina’s face or the sense of overwhelming force created by the muscular form of Pluto, inform the viewer and tell an entire story with a single moment in time. This dynamic representation, a trait developed by the Baroque masters, 7 creates a vivid and believable representation of this myth.
In the 17th century, artists in Italy began embracing an increasingly elaborate style. Known as the Baroque movement, this shift toward an ornate, over-the-top aesthetic is evident in both the art and architecture of the time, with master of materials Gian Lorenzo Bernini at the forefront. In addition to designing St. Peter’s Basilica (one of Italy’s most important monuments), Bernini was a celebrated sculptor, with The Rape of Proserpina among his most treasured creations.
Recently, for example, Thomas Campbell, the director the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, praised the “compelling, hypnotizing, even inspiring” elements of the piece. “And yet . . . ” he added, “I am now struggling to recalibrate my thoughts on this work because a subject that I used to regard almost as an academic premise for virtuoso sculpture—abduction scenes are, after all, common in renaissance and baroque art—seems much less academic two years after the start of the ‘Me Too’ movement.”
The ornate design, grandiose theatricality and attention to detail make this sculpture a unique art piece. This technique enables the sculpture to evoke heart-rending emotion among the audience who identify with the story portrayed. The Rape of Proserpina by Gian Lorenzo Bernini was a touch of class owing to the effort the artist put into it.
Gian Lorenzo developed a twisting pose to remind the audience of Mannerism and combined this with an impression of vital energy. He created various moments and summed them up to form a single sculpture. Similar to some of his works, Gian Lorenzo managed to put tension and emotion in work to achieve a life-like action in the sculpture.
Modern readers should note that in Bernini’s time the word “rape” signified “kidnapping”; thus, the sculpture thus represents the kidnapping of Persephone.
This stunning sculpture exemplifies the best of the baroque and demonstrates Bernini’s ability to handle marble and produce credible figures. Like his other works, the Rape of Persephone is fraught with emotion and tension, achieving a hitherto unseen level of life-like action. Bernini’s pieces can always be recognized by the minute attention to detail, grandiose theatricality, and ornate design.