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Art / The Rape of Proserpina (Rubens)

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The Rape of Proserpina is a 1636 oil painting by Baroque-era Flemish artist and diplomat Peter Paul Rubens.

Proserpine, goddess of spring and daughter of Ceres, is being kidnapped by Pluto, the Ruler of the Underworld. Despite the resistance put up by Minerva, Venus and Diana, their relationship is on its way to cementing into true romance, the presence of the cupids holding the chariot reigns and urging the horses on away from the other gods.

The painting is currently on display at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain.

Not to be confused for the Bernini sculpture of the same name.


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The Rape of Proserpina provides examples of:

  • Death and the Maiden: The sculpture depicts one of the oldest (known) stories that embody the trope, being the Roman God of the Underworld kidnapping the nubile and desirable Proserpina.
  • Love Goddess:
    • Venus — Roman Goddess of Love and Sexuality — is one of the goddesses trying to rescue Proserpina.
    • The putti are meant to represent Cupid, Roman God of Erotic Love.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm: The putti portrayed are meant to evoke imagery of Cupid, implying that Minerva, Venus and Diana are trying to prevent the two from getting in the way of a real relationship. Considering the painting is still called The Rape of Proserpina, this trope still applies.
  • Putto: A pair of putti are goading Pluto's horses to help Pluto escape with Proserpina.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Venus and Cupid — both gods of different forms of love and sexuality — seem to be on opposing sides of this conflict, with Minerva (goddess of war and wisdom) and Ceres (goddess of motherhood and Proserpina's own mother) trying to separate them. This would imply that the painting is symbolic of Love at First Sight, a passionate and spontaneous form of love opposed by those with prudence and who's love for the querents is familial in nature.
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