Skin: The Rape of Proserpina

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Skin
Curated by Sonia Larbi
Bernini, The Rape of Proserpina, 1621-22

I chose this angle for Bernini's masterpiece, The Rape of Proserpina, to showcase his alchemy. Here, Bernini transforms marble into flesh. Not only does he sculpt Pluto and Proserpina in perfect proportion, he adds the spark of life. Overhead lights glint off of Proserpina's haunch and calf, imitating sweat. Pluto's beefy fingers extend from his veiny hand and clutch Proserpina's thigh and waist, pressing deep grooves into her body and the marble. Her head is thrown back, neck stretched to the maximum, forehead creased in fear, and mouth open in a frozen scream. 

The single tear tracking down Proserpina's face seals the deal. You desperately want to act the hero, want to do something. It tears you up inside to stand there and watch passively as such a horrible scene unfolds in front of you. You have to remind yourself that this is only marble, and you'd probably get arrested before you could wrench the two figures apart.

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