By strange coincidence, I was listening to Anais Mitchell’s ‘Hadestown’ on YouTube and the track ‘Our Lady of the Underground’ began playing as I settled down to start today’s drawing which is of Persephone. Persephone (or Prosperina as she was to the Romans) was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Zeus’ sister. As the daughter of the goddess of the harvest, Persephone’s myth is unsurprisingly connected to the cycle of the seasons.
The story goes that Persephone was out gathering flowers one day when Hades burst out of the ground and abducted her, dragging her off to the Underworld. Demeter, in her despair and anguish, neglected her agricultural duties so that – while she searched the earth for her daughter – nothing grew and people started to grow hungry. It was only at that point that Zeus intervened and told Hades, his brother, to return Persephone. Hades agreed but not before tricking Persephone into eating a pomegranate. Because she had done so, poor Persephone was forced to spend six months of the year in the Underworld and six months of year above ground. In such a way, the division of the seasons into growth and death is explained.
There was a time when, like Persephone, I found pomegranates to be hard to resist. If In my early teens, if I had some spare change after school, I would wander home via the greengrocer and treat myself to a pomegranate. Then one day as I was tearing into the outer flesh to release all those little seeds of tastiness, two earwigs crawled out of the stalk bit from their nest in the centre of the pomegranate. That ruined them for me for years and years. While I have started eating them again, they are not even in my top ten of fruit any longer. My heart belongs to raspberries and passion fruits. But I digress …..
If my drawing of Persephone looks strangely familiar to you, that is because I was heavily influenced in my drawing by the famous painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I have been trying very hard with this drawing challenge to not go in the direction of established imagery (except when I very deliberately did so with Oedipus) and to do my own thing. However, as the challenge draws towards an end, I guess the creative bit of my brain is getting a little lazy. The composition of the arm, with the hand curled around the pomegranate, the green clothing and the dark hair are all, therefore, directly inspired by the Rossetti painting. Let’s call this an homage. I was intending on opting for a colour other than green but as the complementary colour it works so well to make the red of the pomegranate seeds and her mouth pop that I couldn’t resist it. Rossetti knew what he was doing, you see.