The legendary tale of the abduction of Persephone was a favorite subject for artists through the ages. According to Greek mythology, Persephone was the beautiful daughter of the goddess Demeter. Hades, the dark god of the Underworld, became enamored with the lovely young maiden, and so one day he simply emerged from his shadowy realm and plucked Persephone from the earth like a flower.
Persephone's mother Demeter was heartbroken at the loss of her daughter. As Demeter was the goddess of agriculture and fertility, she used her power to make a demand to be reunited with Persephone. In the end, that is precisely what happens - Persephone is returned to the earth and her mother for part of the year, while she spends the rest of her time with Hades. The story is therefore a mythological explanation for the changing seasons.
In this painting, Lord Leighton has focused on depicting the dramatic reunion of mother and daughter. The willowy, fragile form of Persephone drifts gently toward the outstretched arms of her eager mother. Demeter, clad in vibrant orange robes, stands silhouetted against the cloudy blue sky. Along with Persephone and Demeter, one other figure is present - the god Hermes. In this scene, Hermes acts as an intermediary, delivering Persephone to the surface of the earth.
More information about the roles that Persephone, Demeter, and Hades played in Greek myth can be found at Mythography.
The Art of Lord Leighton
In this beautiful book, author Christopher Newall examines the life and works of eminent Victorian artist Frederic Leighton. The chapters deal with Leighton's evolution as a painter, from his early phase as "The Outsider", to success as "The President of the Royal Academy". And there are plenty of gorgeous color images to complement the text.
Christopher Wood's elegant and informative book features a comprehensive "who's who" of Victorian artists, from Pre-Raphaelite masters such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, to what Wood terms the Olympian Dreamers. Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates Victorian art.