The Rape of Europa (Titian)

The Rape of Europa is a painting by the Italian artist Titian, painted ca. 1560–1562. It hangs in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, Massachusetts. The oil-on-canvas painting measures 178 by 205 centimetres (70 in × 81 in).[1]

The Rape of Europa
Tizian 085.jpg
Yearca. 1560–1562
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions178 cm × 205 cm (70 in × 81 in)
LocationIsabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston


The title of the painting refers to the mythological story of the abduction of Europa by Zeus (Jupiter to the Romans),[1] 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.[2] 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 1715–1723.[3] 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.[4]

Titian's poesie series for Philip IIEdit


The painting was included in the 1857 Manchester Art Treasures exhibition.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Europa". Isabells Stewart Gardner Museum. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  2. ^ Stephen J. Campbell, "Europa," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 103–107.
  3. ^ Brigstocke, Hugh; Italian and Spanish Paintings in the National Gallery of Scotland, p. 183, 2nd Edn, 1993, National Galleries of Scotland, ISBN 0-903598-22-1
  4. ^ Saltzman, Cynthia (2008). Old Masters, New World: America's Raid on Europe's Great Pictures, 1880-World War I. Viking. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-670-01831-4.
  5. ^ Hamilton, James (2015). A Strange Business. New York, NY: Pegasus Books. p. 325. ISBN 978-1-60598-870-2.