Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Europa and the Bull

I so enjoyed doing the Leda and the Swan post last week I decided to do a series of posts on Zeus's conquests. This week it's Europa, the poor unfortunate girl who gets whisked away by what she thought was sweet white Bull.

I'm going to begin with an excerpt from Ovid's Metamorphoses, I will then repeat sections of the text with the artworks.

Zeus commands one of his many sons to drive some cattle to the beach where Europa is.


"Love and regal dignity, scarcely the best of friends,
are rarely discovered together. And so the father and ruler
of all the gods, whose right hand wields the three-forked
                lightening,
whose nod can sway the whole world, discarded his nighty
                sceptre
and clothed himself in the form of a bull. He lowed as he
                mingled
amongst the steers, parading his beauty along in the fresh,
                lush
grassland. His hide was the colour of snow before it is
                trodden
by clumsy feet or turned to slush by the southerly rains.
The muscles stood out on his neck, he flaunted magnificent
                dewlaps,
his horns curved in an elegant twist - the might quite
                well
have been crafted by hand - and were more transparent
                than flawless gems.
There wasn't a threat in his brow or a fearsome glare in his
                eyes;
his face was a picture of perfect peace. The princess Európa
gazed in wonder upon this gentle and beautiful creature.
At first, despite his unthreatening looks, she was
                frightened to touch him;
but soon she approached with a garland of flowers for
                his gleaming head.
Her lover was blissful and licked her hands as a
                prelude to other
and sweeter pleasures, pleasures he barely, barely
                could wait for.
Now he would gambol beside her, prancing around on
                the green grass;
now he would rest his snow-white flank in the golden
                sand.
As little by little her fears were allayed, he would offer
                his front
to be stroked by her maidenly hand or his horns to be
                decked with fresh garlands.
The princess even ventured to sit with her legs astride
on the back of the bull, unaware whose sides she was
                resting her thighs on;
when Jupiter, gradually edging away from the land and
                away
from the dry shore, placed his imposter's hooves in the
                shallowest waves,
then advanced out further, and soon he was  bearing
                the spoils of his victory
out in mid-ocean. His frightened prize looked back at
                the shore
she was leaving behind, with her right hand clutching
                one horn and her left
on his back for support, while her fluttering dress
                swelled out in the sea-breeze."               
(Ovid, Metamorphoses, 2.846-875)

The Rape of Europa by Simon Vouet, c. 1640

Rape of Europa by Cornelius Schut I, 1640 - 42
The Rape of Europa by Francois Boucher, 1732-34
 
"The princess Európa
gazed in wonder upon this gentle and beautiful creature.
At first, despite his unthreatening looks, she was
                frightened to touch him;
but soon she approached with a garland of flowers for
                his gleaming head."



The Rape of Europa by Giambattista, c. 1725

The Rape of Europa by Giovanni Domenico Ferretti, 1720-40


The Rape of Europa by Paolo Veronese, c. 1578

Europa Picking Flowers by Adolf Munzer
 
"Now he would gambol beside her, prancing around on
                the green grass;
now he would rest his snow-white flank in the golden
                sand.
As little by little her fears were allayed, he would offer
                his front
to be stroked by her maidenly hand or his horns to be
                decked with fresh garlands."

Entführung der Europa by Jakob Jordaens
The Rape of Europa by Francois Boucher, 1747

Coast Scene with the Rape of Europa by Claude Lorrain, 1667

Rape of Europa by Caesar van Everdingen

Rape of Europa by Francesco Zuccarelli

Rape of Europa by Francesco Zuccarelli

Jupiter et Europe by Gustave Moreau

Europa and the Bull by Gustave Moreau, c. 1869


L'enlevement d'Europe by Willy von Beckerath

The Abduction of Europa by Rembrandt, 1632

"The princess even ventured to sit with her legs astride
on the back of the bull, unaware whose sides she was
                resting her thighs on;
when Jupiter, gradually edging away from the land and
                away
from the dry shore, placed his imposter's hooves in the
                shallowest waves,"

The Rape of Europa by Antonio Carracci

The Abduction of Europa, 1550-99, Artist Unkown

The Rape of Europa by Felix Vallotton

Europa by Gustav Heinrich Wolff, 1923

The Rape of Europa by Jean Cousins the Elder, c. 1550

The Abduction of Europa by Matisse, 1929

The Rape of Europa by Noel-Nicolas Coypel, 1727

El rapto de Europa by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636

Rape of Europa by Virginia Frances Sterrett

"then advanced out further, and soon he was  bearing
                the spoils of his victory
out in mid-ocean. His frightened prize looked back at
                the shore
she was leaving behind, with her right hand clutching
                one horn and her left
on his back for support, while her fluttering dress
                swelled out in the sea-breeze."          

I found Ovid's account of Europa's rape much more disturbing than I expected. Positioning the reader inside Zeus's head as he objectifies Europa and actively plots to rape her was, for me, very uncomfortable. Only one of the pictures above seems to indicate any level of fear in Europa or the unpleasantness captured in Ovid's text (The Abduction of Europa, 1550-99, Artist Unkown). My favourite piece, however, is Virginia Frances Sterret's, I love the colours of the ocean and the bull, whose evil intentions I wouldn't guess If I didn't know the story.

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