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How to Read Paintings: Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The tragic heroine who ate a forbidden fruit

Detail of ‘Proserpine’ (1882) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Oil on canvas. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, UK. Image source BMA (open access)

This figure represents Proserpine (known as Persephone to the Greeks), daughter of Ceres (also known as Demeter — goddess of agriculture). Here Proserpine holds a pomegranate in her hand, from which she has taken a single bite and in doing so has secured her fate as a prisoner of the…

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