"Abduction of Europa"

Most artworks usually have a myth behind their existence and the Abduction of Europa is one such art. The mythology in the painting dates back to the times of the poet Ovid in 8 AD.  Beginning with the story from Roman mythology the poem formed a basis of the subject of the above painting. During the 8 AD period, Ovid’s works included The Metamorphoses which comprised of fifteen books of narrative poem. Later on in years, the book became one of the most famous works on the myth discipline. According to the poet Europa was a Phoenician princess  kidnapped or rather raped by Jupiter who had disguised himself as a bull. In the process of disguising himself, Jupiter manages to carry Europa on the bull and gets carried to Crete. In her new and later life, Europa becomes the queen of Crete where she gives birth to three sons, and named the continent Europe. In breaking down the mythology of the Rape of Europa also known as the Abduction of  Europa, the viewer realizes that the painting has  more darker and hidden aspects. Sourcing from the traditional Hellenistic myth Europa was initially a Tyrean maiden before Jupiter managed to carry her off to Crete. Among the three sons of Europa Minos became the king of Crete and rules the continent. Artists of ancient times portrayed the Abduction of Europa by painting the maiden sitting on top of the bull as it wades across the water. Further analysis of the mythology reveals that the Hellenistic myth re-organizes, transforms, and hides a much older Minoan myth something that the paint brings out clearly. There is no written evidence of the Minoan myth but one get information through images of bulls, priestesses, goddesses, serpents, labyrinths, and opium-poppies. The Hellenistic myth is a cover up of the original Minoan myth and, therefore, does not give the whole truth of the story. According to Minoan myth King Minos rebuffed to sacrifice a beautiful white bull to Poseidon which led to the cursing of his wife. The curse worked in such a way that the king’s wife is to fall in love with the animal. Through the animal, the king’s wife managed to seduce another person which led to the birth of Minotaur- half bull, half man.

The rape of Europa falls into the category of Titian’s best paintings of the 1400- 1500 century. Titian, whose official name is Tiziano Vecellio was born in the year 1488, and his family lived in the mountains, north of Venice.  In pursuit of his talent in art Titian took his studies at Venice’s most well-known institution- the workshop of Giovanni Bellini. Titian was a renowned painter of his time and for this talent, we attribute to the following three influences: knowledge gained from his mentor Bellini who emphasized sharp alienation of clarity, form, and pure tones in his work. Secondly, we attribute Titian’s talent to the thematic innovations and artistic style of Giorqione and lastly, Titian’s own expressive thick paint and brushwork application. Titian passed in the 1510 from plague, and he entered in the books of the most famous painter of the 16th century Italian Renaissance. The paint Rape of the Europa stands out amongst other paintings because Titian transformed the status of the painter from lowly craftsmen to creative genius through the paint. The artwork equally has the two types of renaissance paintings most popular with the 16th century rulers- mythological and portraiture.

The painter uses different means to adapt the original story into the visual medium which people see. The main notable measure the painter employs is the adequate and brilliant use of color and objects in the paint. The painting- rape of Europa was in honour for Phillip the second who was the king of Spain. Analyzing the paint, one understands that Rape of Europa is a reading of contrasts. The main elements in the paint are of Europa as a reclining nude who seems to possess the resistant and submissive traits. Titian brings out these traits of Europa with a serious sense of the captive having the desire and fright. The portrait of Europa hangs beneath a sky of opposites- there is an element of calm blue sky, and on the other side, there are threatening storms. The two sides of the sky symbolize different messages to any viewer of the paint. The rape of Europa is a splendid expression of mixed feelings by the main object in the paint which is Europa riding on the bull. In as much as one would want to relate the paint to something awful like abduction the calm side of the sky gives a different notion- of someone who willingly sat on the bull. The lingering question after viewing the paint is whether it represents Europa abduction, or it was a willing and conscientious move to climb on the bull.

The painter uses other objects apart from the sky and Europa to express his ideology and this comprise of cupids, nymphs, and dolphins. The cupids are in the sky and the dolphins in the water seem captivated as they watch the apprehension between the two lovers. On the other hand, the nymphs at a far distance watched the unfolding events and all they can do are wave helplessly. There is some sense of sexuality in the paint which is clearly explained by Europa’s generous, billowing flesh and Jupiter’s tail expresses the excitement as it quivers. Titian’s work of Rape of Europa lives at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and its 185 by 205 cm by size. Titian worked on this painting in the years 1559 to 1562, and it is during this time that there was widespread ideology of myths. The 17th century was coupled with several myths, and the rape of Europa was one of the popular myths of the time. Having this idea in mind it is evident that the painter of Rape of Europa had thought of the myth which gave foundation to his work. Despite the painter having an original idea of the myth he includes other objects, which help in adding appeal to paint, for instance, Titian uses cupids to dilute the notion of dark, erotic undertones and yet cupids are not present in the original myth.

The painter chooses to have Europa in the paint at the moment when her disquiet at being kidnapped begins to transform to love. The painter tries to emphasize the aspect of love between two indifferent people and according to the paint we establish that Europa slowly begins to fall for the animal which is half man, half bull. By including the calm side of the sky and the cupids and other objects in the picture, the painter intends to express the love that the two parties feel for each other but seem unwilling to comprehend. The extra objects in the paint help the viewer to recognize the love between Europa and Jupiter- the bull. The painter equally uses color intelligently to explain the subject of love as he paints the calm sky using lighter colors and so are the cupids, dolphins, and nymphs. In conclusion, the paint is one of the greatest works of Titian in relation to mythology as it clearly explains the Hellenistic myth that existed in the 16th century.

Order now

Related essays