Dante Gabriel Rossetti • Painting, 1874, 125.1×61 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Portrait, Mythological scene
Style of art: The Pre-Raphaelites
Technique: Oil
Materials: Paper
Date of creation: 1874
Size: 125.1×61 cm
Artwork in selections: 60 selections

Description of the artwork «Proserpine»

Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted 8 pictures of "Proserpina" - and the picture, which is now in the Tate Gallery in London, is considered the seventh. It was intended for the collection of a Liverpool shipowner, tycoon and collector Frederick Richards Leyland instead of the previous one, exactly the same, but suffered during transportation.

It seems that Leyland was persistent in his passionate desire to add “Proserpina” to his impressive collection of paintings. Rossetti also passionately dreamed of writing a woman who posed for Proserpina. Eight times - so eight. And the best is hundreds, thousands of times. Model artist was Jane Morris, wife William Morris. Spouses Morris and Dante Rossetti have a strange and complicated relationship. Jane was unhappy in marriage and did not tear it apart just because of the children. Rossetti was obsessed with this woman, was in love and desperate, and therefore he lived in the Oxford summer manor Morris Kelmskott for months without shame of conscience. William Morris himself put up with the relationship of his wife and friend, sometimes left home and disappeared for many days, and even for the whole summer, he knew perfectly well that it was impossible to resist the elements. Here, in the Morris house, Rossetti wrote “Proserpina”. Here they spent two summers together in 1871 and 1872. Here, remaining alone with his beloved, he imagined that she had left the kingdom of Hades for him - and the whole earth, the whole world blossomed and came to life, filled with smells and colors. It was like spring.

The myth of Proserpine is the story of a rebirth and short-lived happiness, of doom and submission to fate. Proserpina is the daughter of Ceres, the goddess of fertility and agriculture. God of the kingdom of the dead Pluto (in Greek mythology - Hades) stole the beautiful Proserpina when they collected flowers, and made him his wife. Inconsolable Ceres was looking for a daughter everywhere - and from her anguish the land became barren and dry, the vines died, wild animals went into holes and caves, entire nations died of starvation. After a long prayer and tears of his mother, Jupiter took pity - and allowed Propepin back from the realm of the dead, provided she did not have time to take any food in the underworld. But the girl took several pomegranate seeds from Pluto, a symbol of marriage, and by the final decision of Jupiter she was obliged to spend under the ground as many months in a year as she ate. They turned out to be 6. Since then half a year Proserpina lives on the ground - and then comes the heat, the birds sing and the flowers bloom, the ears spike and the trees are heavy with fruits. But when she returns to her husband, to the realm of the dead, where sunlight does not penetrate, the earth stops, goes to sleep and sadness. And the life of Jane Morris, hostage to incomprehensible obligations, and the state of Rossetti himself, who was supposed to let go of her lover to her unloved husband, suggested the plot of the picture.

This is one of the unique works of the artist-poet, in which the verses explain what is depicted, and the painting turns out to be an illustration of the verses. In the upper right-hand corner of the canvas, Rossetti wrote a sonnet about Proserpine in Italian:

Oh bright day for a brief moment
Your pale beam to the forgotten corner
My dungeon, in the sorrowful palace!
Blooming Enna and native fields
Not worth the fruit that my eyes
Stole the light of heaven. Full of longing
Meadows Aida. Oh how far
Old days from the next nights!
How far I am from myself -
Vita in thoughts somewhere, waiting sign
And with my heart I hear how, languishing in delirium,
Another soul whispers, hidden by darkness:
“How hard, Proserpina, your peace!
Oh, woe! Do not exceed your misfortune.
(Translated by A. Kruglov)

One of eight paintings depicting Proserpina in 2013 was sold at Sotheby's auction for 5.2 million dollars - at that time it became the most expensive work of the artist. Rossetti repeated “Proserpina” for more than 10 years in a row - partly because he received orders for this particular picture and, of course, often needed money, partly because this image was following him. In one of the letters, he said that he considered it his best work. And repeated several months before his death, in a narcotic and alcoholic stupor, in the midst of his illness, half-blind and paralyzed. Jane Morris had by then refused a close relationship with the artist. They began to bring her too much suffering.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova