Sunday, May 20, 2018

01 Paintings, Olympian deities, by the Old Masters, with footnotes # 20

Prague School, circa 1580
THE ABDUCTION OF EUROPA
oil on copper
16 by 21 5/8  in.; 40.6 by 55 cm
Private collection

In Greek mythology Europa was the mother of King Minos of Crete, a woman with Phoenician origin of high lineage, and for whom the continent Europe was named. The story of her abduction by Zeus in the form of a white bull was a Cretan story; as classicist Károly Kerényi points out, "most of the love-stories concerning Zeus originated from more ancient tales describing his marriages with goddesses. This can especially be said of the story of Europa.

The mythographers tell that Zeus was enamored of Europa and decided to seduce or ravish her. He transformed himself into a tame white bull and mixed in with her father's herds. While Europa and her helpers were gathering flowers, she saw the bull, caressed his flanks, and eventually got onto his back. Zeus took that opportunity and ran to the sea and swam, with her on his back, to the island of Crete. He then revealed his true identity, and Europa became the first queen of Crete. More on Europa

This refined cabinet work arose from within the Prague School at the end of the sixteenth century.  The painting may relate in composition to the lost painting by Bartholomeus Spränger of the same subject recorded in the 1621 inventory of Rudolf II's collection.  More on this painting














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