Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Images of Persephone

Today, this image was brought to my attention.  I was startled, to be honest.  I don't know anything about this artist or about this website, but I was struck by the image.  It reminded me, in a way, of the painting by Lord Frederick Leighton, to which I had referred in my post Psychopompos' Lament.  But this new image made feel quite differently.  Repulsed, actually.

The image of Demeter reaching for her Daughter is very sad to me.  Her face appears drawn and empty.  As the classic tale is told, Demeter did withdraw after the loss of her daughter, so this is an appropriate take on her image, I believe.  She looks and feels dead, just like the aftermath of autumn when the world lies in the "death" of winter. 

Persephone reaches up desperately for her mother, but she is held by a horned god.  I assume it is Hades but I do not know why he has horns.  Is he the devil?  At the same time he also appears gentle and potentially even handsome.  She is also being clawed agressively by terrifying underworld demons.  Throngs of demons peer from their empty eyesockets in the halls of Hades.  Yet the artist calls her piece "The Rapture of Persephone".  The handy Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "Rapture" as an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion.  Or it could also refer to a  state of being "carried away" by overwhelming emotion, which I suppose is what is happening here.  The terrified face of Persephone, however, does not indicate to me that she is experiencing rapture at all.  I think she could.  In the myth in my head, Persephone is most definitely experiencing passion and ecstasy when she finally comes together with Hades.  The images of this painting do not convey that to me.  Not in a way that would make me call it rapture.   

Clearly, though, the artist has done her job.  She has provoked my thoughts and made me think about what my reaction says about me and the way I view the myth of Persephone. 

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