Pluto, god of the Underworld, seizes Proserpine, daughter of the agricultural goddess Ceres; one of her servants, fallen to the ground, tries unsuccessfully to stop him. According to Ovid's Metamorphoses , Pluto was watching Proserpine pick flowers in a meadow when he was struck by one of Cupid's arrows. Pluto carried Proserpine down to his kingdom on a chariot drawn by black horses. According to Greek mythology, Pluto allowed Proserpine to return to earth each spring for four months, thus explaining the change of the seasons.
This bronze is a copy after a larger preparatory model, also in the Museum's collection, by Louis XIV's preeminent sculptor, François Girardon. Louis XIV commissioned Girardon to create one of four monumental marble groups intended to decorate the corners of Charles Le Brun's never-completed garden at Versailles, the Parterre d'Eau. Each group of three figures symbolized one of the four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. Pluto's association with Hell made him an apt symbol of fire.