A poet, dramatist, and divine sculptor, Bernini could do stone theatrical work like no one else. In his ‘The Rape of Proserpine’ Bernini does something unexpected and turns the classical storytelling, and the very sculpture, into something entirely new.
Only he could think of conveying the unequal struggle by having Pluto’s paw-like fingers dig deep into Proserpine’s tight, his chisel carving the deep indentations. Stone is softer than flesh for Bernini, and only playwright as him would engineer much fury through sound: Proserpine’s shrieking and crying, indicated by her open mouth and the tears dropping from her eyes, and all three shaggy heads of the dog Cerberus, guarding the gates of Pluto’s underworld, barking as if to drown the victim’s screams.
But one small detail often overlooked registers both the ferocity and pathos of the battle. Pluto’s masculine triumph has a bitter taste to his lips, as Proserpine pulls the skin next to his left eye, trying to claw and blind her abductor already half-blind by rage. He’s suffering, and deservingly so.
And that’s what sculpture captures — a very brief moment of equality among sexes, a moment of even chances master sculptor has defined — even in the middle of struggle — to be remembered among all other irrelevant details of the story, and immortalised in stone for all generations.
— Zvonimir Tosic