Allegory Explained: Persephone

Allegory, oil on linen, 60cm x 100cm

The introduction of photography profoundly changed how we perceive images in general.  A homogeneous focus over the whole picture plane, visual distortions and haphazard compositions are only part of the problem.  A photograph mechanically isolates a moment in Time.  It is inherently tied to our experience of Time as is the moving photo, i.e. cinema.  The psychological impact has been enormous.  Images have become simply elements of a continuos visual narrative instead of realizing the potential of being unique objects with individual life-spans.

Even more sadly, In a world inundated with photographic images, they are now considered the paragon by which all other forms of figurative visual representation are judged by.

The strength of painting is based on a symbolic power of the image that is not limited to linear narrative.  Every element of a picture gains significance when the formal elements of design: line, color, value and subject, come together for a common purpose.  That aim is expressing something of the eternal in relation to the subject.

This painting depicts Persephone, the goddess of the spring.  She was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, and Zeus.  Her eventual abduction and marriage to Hades made her also the queen of the Dead.  For those not familiar with her myth, more can be found here.

Persephone is shown bridging the two worlds of light and dark.  She offers a sprig of grain to the living world with a setting sun as leans towards the nether regions of Hades.  Her weight is sustained by a ruined bust of Demeter, a symbol of the mother’s grief as the goddess of spring reigns in the underworld.  It was Demeter’s entreaties to Zeus that led to the intervention that resulted in the eventual agreement of dividing Persephone’s time between the realm of the living and the dead.  The result was the creation of the 4 seasons.

The dynamic of Persephone’s situation is emphasized by the chiaroscuro on the figure and the contrapposto of the pose.  Very often this subject is illustrated by depicting the act of abduction by Hades.  As seen the seen below:

Ancient greek affresco from Vergina, Macedonia
Abduction of Persephone from a greek vase

A more well known recent interpretation was sculpted by the young Bernini.

Rape of Persephone by Bernini

Ultimately I wanted to express the iconic quality of Persephone and focus upon the psychological aspect of the result of her destiny.

Allegory, oil on linen, 60cm x 100cm

The hope is that this painting can be enjoyed and ‘read’ on many different levels.  A lot of work, effort and emotion was put into creating a piece that it is rich enough to survive the test of time and enjoyed in the future.

Great painting strives represent the ‘eternal’ moments outside of experience of Time.  By removing its self from such restraints it touches the divine.

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