Proserpine (Persephone) was carried off to the underworld by Pluto where he married her. Her mother Ceres pleaded with Jupiter to have her daughter released from Hades. Jupiter agreed on the condition that she had not eaten any fruits in Hades. Unfortunately, Proserpine had eaten 6 pomegranate seeds so she was forced to stay in Hades for six months of every year.
Rossetti was in love with the model for this painting, Jane Morris who was married to William Morris.
Rossetti painted several versions. This is the final version which is in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.