Artist: De Morgan, Evelyn
Object Number: P_EDM_0033
Date: 1906
Category: Oil on canvas, Paintings, and Wightwick Manor
Material: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Canvas: H 512 x W 458 mm Framed: H 678 x W 630 x D 45 mm
Inscriptions: Signature, 1906: ‘EDeM 1906’

Demeter was the Greek goddess of the earth, particularly the fruits of the fields, and as normal she is represented here as the corn-goddess. Her hair is covered with ears of corn, from which poppies drop around her. Her daughter, Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken beneath the earth to his kingdom. Inconsolable at the loss of her daughter, Demeter refused to allow the earth to be fruitful.

In the painting, the landscape around Demeter is rocky and barren. Humanity would have starved, had not the gods intervened. They arranged for Persephone to be returned to her mother. But Hades had tempted Persephone to eat a few pomegranate seeds, the symbol of marriage and hence tied her to his side. A compromise was reached, whereby Persephone spent on third of the year with her husband Hades, beneath the earth, and two-thirds with her mother. Thus the ancient Greeks explained the seasons – the winter, when nothing grew and the earth was barren, was when Persephone was under the earth with Hades and her mother mourned her loss. When Persephone returned to her mother, Demeter in her joy allowed the earth to be fruitful and greeted Persephone’s return with flowers and fruits.

Conserved with the aid of a grant from the AIM Pilgrim Trust Conservation Scheme