Ancient artworks which represent classical Greek myths most commonly depict the story's climax. Their subjects reveal that the ancient Greeks' taste for dramatic storytelling matched their reverence for each divine entity's embodiment, whether it was a natural phenomenon or an abstract concept. The former of these traits dominate the visual portrayals of the Pluto and Persephone myth, as can be seen in many artworks where the ancient Greeks chose to depict the moment where Pluto theatrically abducts Persephone and sweeps her away to the underworld. In fact, in visual art, it was characteristic of the Greeks to stress the exciting moment of a plot rather than the essence of a divine being. In the myth of Pluto and Persephone, perhaps the most interesting aspect of representing a climatic moment is that, taken out of context, viewers are left to speculate on three integral points: Why did he choose to abduct her? Where is he taking her? And, what happens after she is taken? Likely, the average Grecian's knowledge of their cultural myths came from verbal reiterations, with visual depictions serving as a later, secondary method of storytelling that was not meant to take the place of spoken word, but to reinforce the plot's points. Visual representations of Pluto and Persephone demonstrate that, although the ancient Greeks had faith in religion and the etiological explanations offered by it, in their daily life entertainment was paramount. This approach to the visual depiction of myth was not lost in later cultures and in many ways remained the same. Two well-known depictions, The Abduction of Persephone (FIG. 1) (detail of a wall painting in tomb 1, Vergina, Greece, mid-fourth century BCE., 3' 3 ½" high) and The Rape of Proserpina (FIG. 2) (a marble sculpture by the Italian Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1621-22 AD., 9' 7" high), are separated by time and were created in distinct cultures, yet the approach remains the same: the entertaining excitement of the myth overrides its religious significance.
Buckley, Sara, "Persephone and Hades: A Study of Representation in Art and Culture" (2012). Student Scholarship. 13.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.