• LOCATION 45 | Hidden Messages from the Sun King: A Guide to the Palace of Versailles' Gardens

    Proserpine et Pluton

    Proserpine et Pluton on Versailles, Yvelines audio tour Hidden Messages from the Sun King: A Guide to the Palace of Versailles' Gardens

    The statue in the center shows bearded Pluto, god of the underworld, and the lovely Proserpina, beloved daughter of Ceres. Walk around it as I tell their tale.

    In this scene, Pluto finds Proserpina picking flowers with her maidens and becomes infatuated. He whisks Proserpina away against her will, as a fallen nymph tries helplessly to prevent the abduction. Proserpina reaches up to clasp something of the bright colorful world she knew before being carried down into the darkness. Subjected to a forced marriage, Pluto holds Proserpina captive in his kingdom in the champs Élysées of hell. Yes, that's where the chic boulevard gets its name.

    Ceres rides her chariot all over the globe in search of her missing daughter, as shown on the base of the statue. Apollo reveals the truth, "Your brother betrothed her, and holds her underground permanently." Ceres is so distraught, she refuses to care for nature. She vows to let everything rot until Proserpina is returned to her. Leaves fall from the trees. Crops wither away. Icy air blows snow over barren land.

    Jupiter can't stand any more of this, so he negotiates with his brother. Pluto finally concedes in part, allowing Proserpina to join Ceres above ground for half of the year. Thus in Spring, Proserpina returns to her mother's side for six months. Overjoyed, she makes flowers bloom anew, and crops grow through to harvest. In Fall, Proserpina surrenders to Pluto's desires, and Ceres mourns, leaving the land fallow, battered by the wind and cold.

    The significance of Louis XIV's choice in this statue may be 'The powerful always get what they want,' or 'Even when they're wrong, they're right,' for without this kidnapping we wouldn't have the seasons.

    Exit the first left from where you entered.

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Hidden Messages from the Sun King: A Guide to the Palace of Versailles' Gardens