A Modern Representation of the Abduction of Proserpina
Upon first glance of Gaspero Bruschi’s “The Rape of Proserpina” the viewer sees an off-white sculpture of a man running away with a woman who is overcome with emotion, mounted on a black base. But upon closer examination one begins to notice the exquisite detail of the sculpture. The sculpture is of Pluto carrying away Proserpina to Hades. The black base is the perfect contrast to the white sculpture which is perfectly balanced with just Pluto’s foot grazing the flames of the underworld.
The flames are parted as if to not interfere with his flight of Demeter and the human world. Pluto’s muscular legs propel him closer to his kingdom of darkness. His clothes are bunched and set against his skin and billowing behind him due to the wind. His belly button is exposed, but his nipples are covered. His head turned looking ahead at his destination. A simple crown rests upon his short curly locks. A beard covers some of his expression which shows the adrenaline running through him, the fear of being caught and the joy of winning such a beautiful bride. The nape of his neck lay in the curve of Proserpina’s underarm. His muscular arms hold her high and tight against his side. His hands above and below her right breast appear to be framing it.
The curvaceously portrayed Proserpina is bare breasted, but her navel is covered, opposite of what parts of Pluto are covered. Her dress has slipped down to around her waist the wind lifted some of the fabric to expose her left leg; the rest of the fabric is plastered to her body displaying her curves. Proserpina’s legs are separated as if she were caught in mid-leap. With her wavy hair tied at the nape of her neck in a bun, eyes appear to be closed, head tilted away from Pluto, Proserpina cries to the heavens throwing her arms back in hope to help lift up her appeal to the gods.
The title of this piece may confuse some of the audience because of the usage of the word “rape”. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word “rape” used for poetic or literary style means “the abduction of the woman, especially for the purpose of having sexual relations with” and not the actual sexual act. Hence Pluto is fleeing with her on foot, which is unlike the description given in the Homeric Hymns in which Persephone is carried away in Hades’ chariot. The reason for this change is unclear, I believe that it could have either been for economic reasons or just the artist’s whim. Since Bruschi is known for his detailed portrayal of large limbs and small heads, the inclusion of a chariot, which would have to be grandiose since it belongs to a god, would minimize the importance of Proserpina and Pluto, the real subjects of the piece. To include a chariot, another mold would be required which would end up dipping into the Doccia company’s profit. Although the sculpture is by Gaspero Bruschi credit is often given to the company which sold the figure.
Bruschi was hired by the Doccia factory to make mass reproductions of porcelain miniatures based off of Florentine bronzes. The figures are nine and one half inches wide by twelve inches long according to the Metropolitan Museum. There appears to be no other reason for why Bruschi sculpted “The Rape of Proserpina” other than he was hired to by a factory which had a large collection of Florentine bronzes which they were interested in reproducing in porcelain.
Because of its small size it could be easily mass-produced and would fit on a desk or a bookshelf. Owners of the sculptures would more than likely know the story behind the piece of art and would be able to inform any of there guests should they have inquiries. After the French Revolution there was a short Greek and Roman revival, durring which this piece was produced. The elegant feeling of this piece is due to usage of the Rocco style of art. The Baroque period in art lasted until around 1750 the year this piece was created. The piece was produced at the ending of the Baroque period and the continuation of Classicism, which stressed a balance and simplicity with refrences to Greek and Roman mythology (World Book).