Valerio Castello "The Rape of Proserpine"

The Abduction of Proserpine

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Author/ School/ Dating:

Valerio Castello (Genova, 1624-1659)

Technique and Dimensions:

Oil on canvas, 147 x 217 cm


Audience Room, east wall (inv. no. 2330)

Object Type:



Proserpine, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, was picking flowers with her companions in the meadows of Nisa, Sicily. Suddenly Pluto, son of Cronus, appeared: Eros’ arrows had made him fall in love, prompting him to abduct the maiden, carrying her off in his chariot to the underworld, where he intended to marry her. In the centre of the painting, Pluto grasps the young goddess around the waist as she, attempting to free herself from his powerful grip, raises her right arm. The abductor, draped in red and white cloth from which his muscular torso and right leg emerge, has a crown on his head and a full beard.

The maiden is wrapped in a blue cloth and a light silk shirt which leaves her breasts almost entirely exposed. Both are being transported by a golden chariot pulled by two horses, who seem to be about to plunge into a fiery chasm on the far right of the painting. The scene takes place in a glade and there are four watching maidens, two sitting in the foreground and two on the left beneath the branches of a tree.