Pluto and Proserpina

(1621-1622; Rome, Galleria Borghese)
   Commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese from Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the work depicts the god of the underworld abducting Proserpina, the daughter of Jupiter and Ceres, to make her his consort. At Pluto's feet is Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the entrance to Hades. Bernini here manipulated the marble as if it were soft clay. Pluto digs his fingers into Proserpina's thighs and her flesh responds to the pressure he applies, while his face wrinkles as she pushes her hand against it. The composition borrows from Giovanni da Bologna's serpentinate (serpentine compositions). As in Bologna's Rape of the Sabine Woman (1581-1582; Florence, Loggia dei Lanzi), the work offers a different view on each side. Limbs push away from the central axis in a balanced and credible manner. By this time, Cardinal Scipione Borghese had fallen in disfavor as his uncle, Paul V, had died and been replaced by Gregory XV. To ingratiate himself with the new papal family, the Ludovisi, Cardinal Scipione gave the new papal nephew, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, the Pluto and Proserpina as a gift and ordered from Bernini the Apollo and Daphne (1622-1625; Rome, Galleria Borghese) as its replacement.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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