Bernini, Pluto & Persephone (Borghese)
Gian Lorenzo Bernini Pluto and Persephone 1621-22
The large marble group of Pluto and Proserpina by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, shows Pluto, powerful god of the underworld, abducting Proserpina, daughter of Ceres. By interceding with Jupiter, her mother obtains permission for her daughter to return to earth for half the year and then spend the other half in Hades. Thus every spring the earth welcomes her with a carpet of flowers. The group was executed between 1621 and 1622. Cardinal Scipione gave it to Cardinal Ludovisi in 1622, and it remained in his villa until 1908, when it was purchased by the Italian state and returned to the Borghese Collection. In this group Bernini develops the twisting pose reminiscent of Mannerism, combined with an impression of vital energy (in pushing against Pluto’s face Proserpina’s hand creases his skin and his fingers sink into the flesh of his victim). Seen from the left, the group shows Pluto taking a fast and powerful stride and grasping Proserpina, from the front he appears triumphantly bearing his trophy in his arms; from the right one sees Proserpina’s tears as she prays to heaven, the wind blowing her hair, as the guardian of Hades, the three-headed dog, barks. Various moments of the story are thus summed up in a single sculpture.