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Women, Myth & Power

August 12, 2021 - January 2, 2022
Hostetter Gallery

Between 1551 and 1562, Titian created a series of monumental paintings for King Philip II of Spain. Celebrated as landmarks of western painting, the six poesie — or painted poetries — envision epic stories from classical Antiquity. Titian reimagined these familiar tales and used his modern style of painting to shape the future of western art. For the first time in over four centuries, Isabella Stewart Gardner’s fully restored Rape of Europa is reunited with its five illustrious companions in the exhibition’s finale and its only American venue on an international tour including to the National Gallery, London and the Museo del Prado, Madrid. This exhibition explores each painting's story, its drama, raw emotion, and complex consequences illustrated in each painting, reconsidering what the poesie meant in their own time and how they resonate now. Newly commissioned responses by contemporary artists and scholars engage with questions of gender, power, and sexual violence as relevant today as they were in the Renaissance.

Two new works developed in response to Titian’s paintings are on view in both the Fenway Gallery and on the Museum’s Facade. In the Fenway Gallery, Artists-in-Residence Mary Reid Kelly and Patrick Kelley give voice to the central figure of the Gardner’s Titian painting: Europa. On the facade, Barbara Kruger’s Body Language uses a detail from Titian’s Diana and Actaeon to challenge dynamics of gender and power.

Titian: Women, Myth & Power explores themes of sexual assault and violence.

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Titian-Related Programs

We invite you to enjoy a suite of digital and in-person programs exploring art historical themes and contemporary issues related to Titian: Women, Myth & Power and the new works by Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley and Barbara Kruger.

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Titian Room Restoration

The grand Titian Room on the third floor is being restored to Isabella’s original vision with textured silks in deep reds and golds, dark wood flooring, and recently conserved furniture and objects. The project will be capped off with the return of Titian’s The Rape of Europa to the room at the close of the exhibition.

The Rape of Europa Exhibition Book

Exhibition Catalogue

This book tells the painting’s story in Isabella’s time, in Titian’s, and offers rare insights into the artist’s virtuoso technique in dazzling detail.


Related Exhibitions

Related Exhibitions

Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley: The Rape of Europa

Fenway Gallery | August 12, 2021- January 2, 2022

Barbara Kruger: Body Language

Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade | June 29, 2021 - February 1, 2022

The lead sponsors of Titian: Women, Myth & Power are Amy and David Abrams and The Richard C. von Hess Foundation


The presenting corporate sponsor is:

Bank of America logo


This exhibition is supported by the Robert Lehman Foundation, Fredericka and Howard Stevenson, and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional support is provided by an endowment grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Media Sponsor: The Boston Globe.