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Pluto and Proserpina by Vincenzo di Rossi

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Pluto and Proserpina by Vincenzo di Rossi. 

About the Work

Title : Pluto and Proserpina
Year : circa 1565-1570
Artist : Vicenzo de Rossi
Medium : Bronze with stone plinth
Location : Victoria & Albert Museum, Sculpture Gallery

This sculpture is displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum. It was loaned to the museum since 1989. Further, one may see a 20th century replica of it at Cliveden Estate in Buckinghamshire.

VIcenzo de Rossi_Pluto & Proserpina_Artwork in Focus_Art From Us_Divvya Nirula
Pluto & Proserpina (c. 1565-1570)
Vicenzo de Rossi

The work depicts Pluto, the keeper of the underworld, kidnapping Proserpina. It is based on the famous Greco-Roman legend of the Rape of Proserpina. According to the legend, Proserpina was the daughter of Ceres or Demeter. Associated with springtime and the blooming of life and also with death. Pluto was in love with Proserpina. Therefore, abducts Proserpina and takes her with him, to the underworld. The sculpture is a graphic representation of this subject.

Made in bronze, the work depicts Proserpina’s struggle. She tries to break free from Pluto, but he overpowers her. Pluto is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Hades.

The Legend of Proserpina

According to the legend, Hades tricked Persephone with a beautiful Narcissus flower. When she saw the flower in a field, she tried to uproot it. Subsequently, the Earth split open and she fell to the underworld. Her mother Demeter begged Hades to let her go. Thus, Hades allowed her to visit Earth every few months of the year, However, she always had to return to the underworld. Furthermore, before Persephone left him, Hades offered her 4 pomegranate seeds. It is believed that if you eat your captor’s fruit, you must return to them. In this way, Hades ensured that Persephone always came back to him.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini has also famously depicted this theme. His marble sculpture was made around 1622. The sculptor was only in his twenties when he created the masterpiece. Bernini’s work is located in Galleria Borghese, Rome.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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