Walking into Piazza Navona, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or the fountain of the four rivers is the most central piece of the square. Four powerful men, sculpted in a circle representing and celebrating the worlds’ four great rivers of those time – Ganges, Nile, Danube and Plate – and a an obelisk right in the center. Standing beneath the fountain – I was amazed by the gigantic proportions... (everything in Rome is so gigantic) and impressed by its magnificence. Needless to say, the concept of a dedication to 4 rivers was a beautiful one.
Piazza Navona at night
The next time I came up close with a Bernini sculpture was in the Villa Borghese in Rome. Pluto, is holding or rather carrying Persephone, like he doesn’t want to let her go. His hand is circled around her and holding her above, catching her in her hip and thigh, and denting her soft, smooth flesh as his fingers press into her. The force in holding her is etched in his stance, in his every taut muscle. I was stumped. Persephone is pushing away from him - I just couldn’t understand why! Her toes are delicately curled, to show her distraught it seemed. Even the swing of her hair, the tendrils of his beard capture the struggle. The intenseness, and the power of the moment so beautifully captured in an inanimate sculpture.
I couldn’t look away.
Ratto di Proserpina. This image is taken from http://www.storiadellarte.com
The sculpture is Ratto di Proserpina or Rape of Persephone, based on the story of her abduction. (I have a strong dislike of the word, and am happy that may be the word wasn’t intended in its crudest). Wiki says(according to one of the legends), she was picking flowers with other nymphs when Hades aka Pluto abducted her. Although she was later returned, she was tricked into eating a few pomegranate seed and therefore is tied to the Underworld. So she returns every year in winter to Hades and the Underworld; during which time her mother doesn’t allow crops to prosper until Persephone returns to her.
Bernini was 23 when he produced this masterpiece. And I was in love with it.
There is so much Art in Italy that it can overwhelm you. As an uninitiated person to art, I didn’t expect to find something that would thrill me this much. Bernini’s work is all over Rome. You can’t miss the imposing double colonnade in the Vatican City. You are likely to run across the cute (but also forlorn, I thought) Elephant in the vicinity of the Pantheon. If you like these Bernini’s, I would definitely recommend a stop at Villa Borghese to see Ratto di Proserpina and the equally impressive Apollo and Daphne.
This was a guest blog post and can also be found here.