03 April 2010

Hades and Persephone: Death, Rebirth, Winter and Spring

Hades the dark god of the Underworld abducted the maiden Persephone on a spring like day while she was gathered flowers in a meadow with nymphs. As queen of the dead she ruled below earth during the barren Winter to return at Spring with the rebirth of the upperworld. The myth of the seasons was transformed during the plagues of medieval Europe into Death and the Maiden in which the ephemeral beauty of a virgin or lady is contrasted with a skeleton personifying Death. American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne retold the story of Persephone in The Pomegranate Seeds from Tanglewood Tales (1853). Virginia Frances Sterrett illustrated the children’s book in 1921. The Baroque marble sculpture The Rape of Proserpina by Italian Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 –1680) provides a more carnal vision of the myth. German printmaker Sebald Beham (1500-1550) depicted Death pursuing a Lady in his engraving, like Persephone she is holding flowers. Edvard Munch (1863–1944) had an early fascination with death, his mother and sister both dying of tuberculosis when he was a child. The Norwegian Expressionist shows the Maiden in an erotic embrace with Death.


  1. It is the Munch painting that most makes us feel that some chills yet remain in Spring! Cycles, cycles.

  2. And thank you for introducing me to the beautiful cycle of Jean-Jaques Salvador's Tarot cards!

  3. Persephone has always been a truly fascinating figure. So many great artists have portrayed her...lovely post...

  4. S + S, Thank you! Persephone has always fascinated me also, along with her journey to the Underworld. Kendra

  5. Kendra, I remember literally running out of the Design in Vienna show at the MOMA in 1980's the Munch Paintings were so visceral and disturbing.

    Did you see the film Orfeu Negro(Black Orpheus,1959)by Marcel Camus? A retelling of the Myth set in Brazil to a samba beat.

    Please write to me and tell me what Vintage Costume jewelry you collect, what you are interested in, I am presently preparing a post on Gripoix.

  6. Thank you Debra, It is alway so good to hear from you. I posted answers to your questions on your bog, Diamonds and Rhubarb. Best, Kendra


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