Art in Metamorphoses: Abduction of Persephone on a Unicorn

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Art in Metamorphoses
Centuries of Ovid's Influence
Curated by Natalie Dockhorn


Durer, Abduction of Persephone on a Unicorn, 1516

The stories of Metamorphoses has given many artists stories and myths to research and paint through the years. Ovid's Metamorphoses shares short poems and compacts these stories that have not only become world renowned poetry, but also a chance to make some fantastic art.

Here, in Durer's etching of the Abduction of Persephone, Hades has spotted Persephone and fallen for her, without warning he snatches the helpless girl and takes her to the underworld. Ovid writes this story saying, "He fell in love/And snatched her away-/Love pauses for nothing/Terrified she screamed for her mother,/And screamed for her friends. But louder/And again and again to her mother."

Durer captures Persephone's fear perfectly as she struggles with Hades reaching for her mother or a friend. Hades holds on to the girl fiercely, Durer draws his god-like figure strong and well attached to the horse with his muscular leg, and he takes his prize with no question. The detailed bodies and intricate clouds scream Durer and also shows his knowledge of human bodies as well as emotion and movement throughout the piece.

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