Proserpine | Dante Gabriel Rossetti | 1874
Together with other artists such as John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, Rossetti founded the Brotherhood of the Pre-Raphaelites, as we saw in another post, a movement that wanted to return to a painting free from the poses and classic elegance of the Renaissance artists, especially Raphael. Hence, the meaning of its name.
The Pre-Raphaelites were considered an avant-garde movement, but they rejected this categorization as they accepted history and realistic painting. Among their motifs, we can find works of classic, literary and mythological content, such as the case of Prosepine. The story tells that the main character is kidnapped by Pluto, the god of the underworld, to be his wife. Proserpine rejects him and begs him to return to Earth, but Pluto refuses. As the goddess had been feeding on a pomegranate, the fruit of the dead, she is condemned to live half of each year with his kidnapper.
For Proserpine, the artist used Jane Morris as a model, the wife of the Pre-Raphaelite William Morris, but also Rossetti’s lover. The painting shows Proserpine in a three-quarter portrait holding a pomegranate. The folds of her dress, her hairdo, the censer and the decorative leaves suggest ancient Hellenic painting. In the centre of the work, the artist highlights the parallel between his lover and the Greek goddess with the pomegranate, symbol of captivity.