Rape of Europa - titian, 1562

titian (Pieve di Cadore, about 1488 - 1576, Venice)

Rape of Europa, 1562

Oil on canvas, 178 x 205 cm (70 1/16 x 80 11/16 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Commissioned by Philip II, King of Spain, Madrid (d.1598), 1562–1598.
By inheritance to Philip III, King of Spain, Madrid (d.1621), 1598–1621.
By inheritance to Philip IV, King of Spain, Madrid (d.1665), in the Bóvedas de Ticiano of the Alcázar, 1621–1665.
Given to Charles I of England, then Prince of Wales, in anticipation of his wedding to Philip's sister in 1623 but the painting was left in Madrid after marriage negotiations broke down.
By inheritance to Charles II, King of Spain, Madrid (d.1700), 1665–1700.
By inheritance to Philip V, King of Spain, Madrid (d.1746), 1700–1704.
Gift of Philip V to the Duc de Gramont (probably Antoine, d.1725, French ambassador at Spanish court), 1704–about 1706. (together with the two Dianas from the series of poesie, presumably for the Duke of Orléans)
Gift of Gramont to Philippe Orléans, Duke of Orléans, Paris (d.1723), about 1706–1723. (installed at the Palais Royal, Paris until the French Revolution)
By inheritance to Louis Orléans, Duke of Orléans, Paris (d.1752), 1723–1752.
By inheritance to Louis-Philippe Orléans, Duke of Orléans, Paris (d.1785), 1752 –1785.
By inheritance to Louis-Philippe-Joseph Orléans, Duke of Orléans, Paris (d.1793), 1785–1792.
Purchased by Vicomte Édouard de Walkuers from Orléans for François-Louis-Joseph de Laborde-Méréville (d. 1801), Bruxelles, 1792.
Jeremiah Harman (d.1844), London on consignment from Laborde-Méréville by 1798.
Purchased by a British syndicate (Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater; Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle; George Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland), 1798.
Puchased by Thomas Noel Hill, 2nd Baron of Berwick (d.1832), Attingham Hall, Shropshire at the Orléans collection sale at the Lyceum, London on 26 December 1798, lot 220.
Acquired by John Bligh, 4th Earl of Darnley (d.1831), Cobham Hall, Kent by 1816–1831.
By inheritance to Edward Bligh, 5th Earl of Darnley (d.1835), Cobham Hall, Kent, 1831–1835.
By inheritance to John Stuart Bligh, 6th Earl of Darnley (d.1896), Cobham Hall, Kent, 1835–1896.
Purchased by the art dealers Colnaghi & Co., London on 15 June 1896 for £14,000.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from Colnaghi & Co., June 1896 for £20,000 through Bernard Berenson (1865–1959), American art historian.


Signed beneath the foot of the putto riding the dolphin (lower left): TITIANVS.P.
Label measuring 2 x 1.5 cm (recto, lower right corner): no 715 [?]
Label inscribed (vertical crossbar of the stretcher, top): No. 257.
Red label printed (vertical crossbar of the stretcher, top): Exhibition/of/TREASURES/1857/The Earl Darnley [in pen] Proprietor
Label printed (vertical crossbar of the stretcher, top): 1
Fragmentary label inscribed in pen and ink (vertical crossbar of the stretcher, upper right): 12 -/ - wope


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Titian’s Rape of Europa, painted in Venice in the 1560s, is inspired by a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Infatuated with Europa, Jupiter—king of the gods—transforms himself into a beautiful white bull and joins a herd grazing near the seashore. Europa, close by with her companions, approaches the beautiful creature with hand outstretched. Finding him tame, she plays with the bull in a meadow and entwines flowers around his horns. When she climbs playfully on his back, the mischievous god seizes the opportunity and springs into the sea, spiriting away the target of his affections while she clings to him in terror.
Jupiter races across the ocean and Europa holds on by one horn. Gazing back over her shoulder toward the shoreline, she waves a red silk veil to attract attention. Europa’s companions respond with their own frantic signals (note the herd of cows still grazing to their left). Titian dramatizes her immediate danger of drowning by positioning in the foreground a menacing, scaly sea monster bristling with spines. Nearby a cupid chases after Europa on a dolphin. His pose mimics hers, perhaps poking fun at her plight. The forced union of Europa and Jupiter eventually led to a historic event: the birth of Minos, king of Crete and the Minoans, the first European civilization.
With the help of Bernard Berenson, Isabella Stewart Gardner bought Titian’s Rape of Europa from the Earl of Darnley in 1896, and it became the crown jewel of her muse-um’s growing collection. When the painting arrived in Boston, she wrote with delight to Berenson, “I am back here tonight . . . after a two days’ orgy. The orgy was drinking myself drunk with Europa and then sitting for hours in my Italian Garden at Brookline, thinking and dreaming about her.”