The Rape of Europa (Titian)  

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"Titian's Rape of Europa is highly praised for its luminous colors and sensual textures. But the painting has an overlooked dark side, namely that it eroticizes rape. I argue that this is an ethical defect that diminishes the painting aesthetically." --“Where Ethics and Aesthetics Meet: Titian's Rape of Europa”, (2003) by Anne W. Eaton.

"The painting depicts The Rape of Europa. It is a bold diagonal composition which was admired and copied by Rubens. In contrast to the clarity of Titian's early works, it is almost baroque in its blurred lines, swirling colors, and vibrant brushstrokes." --Sholem Stein

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The Rape of Europa is a painting by the Italian artist Titian, painted ca. 1560-62. It hangs in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, Massachusetts.


The title of the painting refers to the mythological story of the abduction of Europa by Zeus (Jupiter to the Romans), Titian is unequivocal about the fact that this is a scene of rape (abduction): Europa is sprawled helplessly on her back, her clothes in disarray. In the myth, the god assumed the form of a bull and enticed Europa to climb onto his back. Once there, the bull rode into the sea and carried her to Crete, where he revealed his real identity. Europa became the first Queen of Crete, and had three children with Zeus. The painting depicts Europa on the back of the bull, just off the shore of her homeland.


The painting was one of the "poesie" painted by Titian for Philip II of Spain. With Diana and Callisto and Diana and Actaeon, both now shared by London and Edinburgh, it was one of three Titian poesies given by Philip V of Spain to the French ambassador, the Duke of Gramont, who in turn presented them to Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, Regent of France from 1715–23. For most of the 18th century it was in the Orleans Collection in Paris. It was purchased by Bernard Berenson on behalf of art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner in 1896.

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