Pluto Abducting Proserpine
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François Girardon
French, Tours, 1693 - 1710
41 15/16 x 17 11/16 x 20 1/16 in.

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Pluto, represented as a mature man, attempts to abduct the nubile Proserpine, while a maid below struggles to assist her. The three nude figures join together with drapery in a spiral from which Proserpine gracefully extends her arms, reaching out and up in resistance. In contrast to the figures' animated gestures, their faces are relatively expressionless. François Girardon's large bronze of Pluto Abducting Proserpine represents the violent abduction of Zeus and Demeter's young daughter by the god of the underworld. This event explained the change of the seasons in Greek mythology: in response to Demeter's grief at the loss of her daughter, Zeus and Pluto agreed that Proserpine, who represented Spring, would spend six months of the year above ground with her mother and the remaining six underground with Pluto, thus causing winter.

Louis XIV commissioned four monumental marble abduction groups to decorate the corners of Charles LeBrun's never-completed garden at Versailles, the Parterre d'Eau. This bronze is a version of Girardon's preparatory model for one of these statues. Each group of three figures symbolized one of the four elements: earth, air, wind, and fire. Pluto's association with hell made him an apt symbol of fire.

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Proserpine's face


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