The figure represents Proserpine as the Empress of Hades. Proserpine was conveyed to Pluto's realm, where she became his bride. Her mother Ceres pleaded with Jupiter to return her to earth. Jupiter agreed providing she had not partaken of any of the fruit of Hades. However, she had eaten a single pomegranate grain and thus had to remain in the underworld.
There are no fewer than eight versions of this composition, though few were completed, and they are all inscribed with Rossetti's poem of the same title. The doomed classical heroine is modelledon Jane Morris, with whom Rossetti had established an intimate relationship by July 1869. This version was painted for L. R. Valpy Esq. as a copy, on a reduced scale, of the Tate version. It was finished at Birchington, just a few days before Rossetti's death.