A sculptural group of three intertwined figures, made of lead, representing the Abduction of Proserpina (Persephone). A corpulent male figure, bearded and crowned (Pluto/Hades), carries a female figure on his back (Persephone/Proserpina). On the ground, another female figure (perhaps Demeter/Ceres or the Naiad nymph Cyane) makes a desperate attempt to prevent the goddess from being abducted.
The statue is clearly reminiscent of the work with the same name by Bernini and of the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna, but the model that is presented seems to follow the Abduction of Proserpina by François Girardon, albeit with some differences. Originally planned to be displayed in the Parterre of the Orangerie, it ended up being installed in the centre of the Colonnade in the park of Versailles. Whereas, in the case of Girardon’s piece, the change of location completely altered the artist’s initial idea of maintaining a point of view that would be, above all, frontal, in Queluz this view of the sculpture is afforded special privilege by its current situation, in the Broad Walk, close to the Tiled Canal.
Cheere’s composition illustrates the most dramatic moment in the myth, narrated in Book V of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Pluto, a god of the underworld (Tartarus), who was in love with Proserpina, abducts her while she is picking flowers with the nymphs and takes her to his underground kingdom, marrying her and making her his queen. Ceres, Proserpina’s mother and a goddess of the crops and the seasons of the year, implores Jupiter to return their daughter to them both, with it finally being settled that Proserpina would spend a year with her mother and another year with her husband. In the first of these periods, nature is reborn again as a result of Ceres’ joy and happiness, whereas in the second period, she becomes desolated, neglects nature and the cultivated land becomes sterile, for the seeds no longer germinate. This myth provided the original justification for the annual cycle of the crops.