Friday, January 1, 2010

Jan. 1: The Rape of Europa

Artist: Titian, Italian Painter
Title: Rape of Europa
Classifications: Mythological paintings, Renaissance art
Date produced: 1562
Original's location:

Painting description (from The Rape of Europa is surely one of the gayest of Titian's "poesies," as he called them.  Taken by surprise, Europa is carried off, arms and legs flying, on the back of Jupiter in the form of a garlanded white bull. A putto ( chubby, naked little boy) on the back of a dolphin appears to be mimicking her, and cupids in the sky follow the merry scene

Compare it to this Painting by Guido Reni

Artist: Guido Reni
Date: 1637-9
Original's Location: The National Gallery

This painting is unusual with its inclusion of Cupid--here Europa is shown at the moment when her "disquiet at being abducted begins to turn to love."

About the myth: Europa was the daughter of Agenor, King of Tyre. Zeus fell in love with her and transformed himself into a docile bull to abduct her from the shore where she was playing. She climbed on his back and they swam to Crete. They had 3 sons: Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon.

This myth was one of the most popular classical subjects for 17th-century paintings.

Things that strike me as interesting:
The comparison of the 2 paintings
How many similar works depict a woman dragged away with "angels" or other mythological entities watching? Feels familiar


  1. Here is the story as told by Ovid in the Metamorphosis.

    The original painting, I believe, is in the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum on the Fenway in Boston.

    The painting was copied by Peter PAul Rubens in the 1620s. You can see it here.,_after_Titian.php

    Rape of Europa is also the name of the book describing the Nazis theft of art before and during WWII. I never finished reading it. Perhaps we can read it together.

  2. The original story is interesting. If it wasn't called "Rape," I'm not sure I'd get that idea from either the words or the pictures. And the only line from the text that sounds that was was:
    Thus swimming out farther, he carried his prey off Into the midst of the sea.
    Almost fainting with terror she glanced back,
    As she was carried away, at the shore left behind.

    I think it's interesting how dark the first painting is. And that both include cupids. . . love/rape?

    And I find the first line from Ovid confusing: Majesty is incompatible truly with love; they cohabit Nowhere together