tapestry wool and silk
In Roman mythology, of Greek origin, Proserpina daughter of Ceres is kidnapped by Pluto while collecting flowers in a meadow, on the slopes of Etna, and taken to the Underworld. In the central scene of the tapestry we see the girl grabbed by Pluto and dragged on a golden chariot towards the heart of the Earth, which opens up in the flames under the legs of a white horse.
In the rich border above, the Phoenix, a magical bird that rises from its ashes, and the Salamander, which resists the flames, and is also a symbol of Justice, are depicted.
The tapestry is intended to represent the allegory of Fire: in fact it was commissioned in 1762 to complete a vestment on the theme of the Four Elements - Air Water Earth Fire - begun in 1739 by the Reale Arazzeria di S. Carlo alle Mortelle, under the direction of Domenico Del Rosso.
The Rape of Proserpina was made with the advice of Luigi Vanvitelli, who chose as the author of the cartoon Gerolamo Starace Franchis, a Solimenesque painter who had painted the vault of the Staircase of the Royal Palace of Caserta.
From a technical and stylistic point of view, this work represents a turning point in the activity of the Manufacture, for the use of the high heddle technique, with vertical looms, introduced by Pietro Duranti, and for the role assigned to the figurative aspects, for which, rather than recovering images from prints or repertoires, oil cartoons were commissioned to the best artists of the time.