Maiden of Spring, Queen of the Underworld Picture
My own rendition of the Greek Goddess Persephone, both as the maiden of Spring, pre-abduction to the underworld by Hades, and post-abduction, as the Queen of the Underworld. I have been wanting to do an art work based on Persephone for some time now, and this is what I ended up doing; something influenced by Art Nouveau and the work of Alphonse Mucha in particular.
I have always been intrigued by Persephone and the numerous dualities she embodies. In the famous abduction story, she is very much a victim, and it is the actions of her mother and Hades which dominate the story. However, as the Queen of the Underworld she is a powerful and respectfully feared figure, described as the formidable, venerable, and majestic Queen of Shades by Homer.
Just a little explanation of the symbolism in the picture:
As the maiden (left half), I drew her holding a sheaf of grain, as this is how she was often depicted. The flowers featured on the left side of the picture are roses, iris, hyacinth, and violets, all of which she was said to be gathering at the time of her abduction (according to Homer). The large narcissus (aka daffodil) in the centre was grown 'to be a snare for the bloom-like girl - a marvellous, radiant flower'. As she reached out to it Hades sprang out of the ground in his chariot and carried her off.
As the Queen (right half), I drew her holding a pomegranate, the seeds of which she ate whilst in the underworld, thereby binding her to remain there for part of the year. In her right hand she holds some mint leaves, which is a little reference to the story of Minthe, the nymph who, depending on the version you hear, was the concubine of Hades prior to his marrying Persephone, or who he had a flirtation with after his marriage, or who tried to seduce him. In any case, Persephone wasn't having any of it and so turned her into a mint plant. I just find the story amusing and so wanted to include something of it here. On this side of the picture there are also lilies and poppies, as well as willow branches, all of which were in the Underworld's 'Groves of Persephone'.