why did bernini call it the rape of persephone
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
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.
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. ” 
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.  
This story revolves around the abduction of Proserpina, the daughter of Jupiter (Zeus in Greek mythology) and Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. While picking flowers, Proserpina was attacked by an enamored Pluto, the god of the dead, who burst from the earth in a chariot pulled by four black horses. While Ceres heard her daughter scream while being dragged into the underworld, she was unfortunately too late.
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.
The Rape of Proserpina (or Persephone) was constructed by Bernini between 1621 and 1622. He was only 23 years old at the time of completion.
In Greek mythology, Persephone (also known as Proserpina) was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter (goddess of agriculture) and was queen of the Underworld. One day while the young maiden was picking flowers, Hades, god of the underworld, kidnapped Persephone and carried her back to the underworld to be his wife.
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.
Modern readers should note that in Bernini’s time the word“rape” signified “kidnapping”; thus, the sculpture thus represents the kidnapping of Persephone.
Reverting to the Dan Brown novel, which clearly enlists Bernini as one of the greatest infiltration of Illuminati and confers the title of “il maestro ignoto—the unknown master”, the association with Galileo can be hardly missed. In the essay entitled ‘The Influence of Galileo on Bernini’s Saint Mary Magdalen and Saint Jerome’, Harriet Feigenbaum Chamberlain argues, “Though the balance of the Magdalen and Jerome is visually less audacious than in some earlier works, it is so subtly and cleverly handled that we wonder whether Bernini’s sculptured forms were influenced by a theoretical principle. Bernini could have known such a principle, namely, Galileo’s new theories of gravity. Galileo’s new theory of balance would have been of special value to Bernini, enabling him to achieve charged psychological effects by balancing masses of stone in a seemingly precarious manner. It is especially applicable when creating illusions with odd and asymmetrically shaped weights. Before demonstrating the special relevance and applicability of Galileo’s theory, it must be shown that the principles it contained were definitely available to Bernini.”
In the course of the discussion, we come to realize that Galileo was interested primarily in using his theories to solve practical problems. He confirmed the validity of these theories with mathematical proof and experiment. Because of his fame, Galileo was frequently invited to explain his ideas and to participate with architects and engineers in the solution of some of the major technical problems of the time. The persona of Bernini was sure to have been influenced by the genius of Galileo and interesting facts such as “Pope Urban VIII, Bernini’s great patron, was also a friend of Galileo’s until the latter’s trial” help to cement the belief. It is improbable that Bernini would not have encountered Galileo’s theories on the center of gravity in solids when we consider the vastness of some of his projects and the variety of people employed to work on them, engineers and architects as well as sculptors and craftsmen.
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The other masterpiece Bernini made in the period is the “Rape of Persephone”, also called “Pluto and Proserpina”. The word rape is a strong word- to Bernini in this work, it meant “abduction”. What we see is Pluto(also called Hades), the powerful god of the underworld, kidnapping Persephone and carrying her away. In true Bernini fashion, the act is captured at a moment of intense motion and struggle.She twists her body to free herself, resisting Pluto by pushing against his forehead with her hand. Her other arm is outstretched for help. It’s hard to see her face, but she screams in agony as visible tears, carved into the marble, slide from her eyes and down her cheeks. An elaborate drapery flows in the wind and captures the movement of the struggle as Pluto reaches across his body and grabs onto her thigh. Bernini envisioned the sculpture as an unfolding event, one that could be read from 3 sides. From the left, seen here, we see the initial struggle and resistance of Persephone. From the front, Pluto is seen arriving in the underworld, and appears in command of his captured victim. From the right, we see the aftermath and the three-headed dog Cerberus (who guards the underworld) along with Persephone’s tears.