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The Rape of Europa

Written by

Eric J. Gilston

The Rape of Europa by Titian is considered one of the more prominent paintings in the United States. The popularity of the painting is cause by the dynamic dual composition, that of Baroque integrated with the Renaissance style, as described by Wolfflin and the metaphorical implications of heroic rape imagery, introduced in Excerpts from Diane Wolfthal. The implications of heroic rape imagery in context with the Rape of Europa, gives light to the metaphoric complexity of the scene, which to understand the entirety of the painting must be explained. Titians ability to use dualistic styles of both Baroque and Renaissance makes this painting truly elegant in its entire composition. The dualistic styles optimize the majestic rape adhering to underlying themes of political and sexual male dominance. These dualist styles of painting are used by Titian to deduct from the ethical ideals of rape and portray the scene with absolute magnificence. The reasons previously stated for The Rape of Europa being held in such high regards, may allude to the fact that America shares similar qualities of erotic romanticism, political and sexual male dominance that European nobles use too. The veneration of The Rape of Europa is explicitly shown in Titians painting. He makes the viewer see the beauty in this romantic act of Zeus by his ability to combine the two different styles of classical renaissance and Baroque, as described by Wolfflin. Titians superb artistic talent gave him the ability to use both styles to maximize the beauty, eradicating the suggestion of rape. Thus the following terms will be explained: Linear, painterly, plane, recessional, closed, open form, multiplicity, unity, absolute and relative clarity. The combination of classical renaissance and baroque styles truly give the painting its grandiose beauty, which in turn elaborates the heroic rape imagery.

The linear aspects of The Rape of Europa reinforce the visual complexity of Titians painting, creating a path of vision that can be seen in the form of the river receding into the background. Both beauty and power are present in The Rape of Europa: the magnificent river in the foreground recedes and its linear aspects create realistic solidity with the background, allowing the noble viewer to assume the role of Zeus. Similar to European nobles, the American dream for many men is power, wealth, and romance. Interestingly, this painting is famous in America and was found by American G.I.s during World War II after the defeat of the Nazis. American soldiers found this painting, and the characteristics of a true warrior are power and male sexual dominance. Thus, both the soldier and the viewer can assert their political and sexual male dominance, which seem to add to the paintings popularity. The baroque style of painterly is also present in The Rape of Europa. This style is evident in the blurring of edges, the accent of Titians substantial brushstrokes, strategically combining dimensions as well as outlines, and the realistic scene that seems to come alive in its integrity. Titians ability to use both forms of painterly and linear clearly show his degree of mastering the different styles of painting, yet most of his works are either Baroque or classical Renaissance. This leads to the idea that Titian used both styles to cleanse the ethics of rape in the scene and portray the political and sexual male dominance. The different styles of plane and recessional give the painting qualities of an exquisite pastoral and dreamlike complexity of visual representation. The aspects of the dualistic styles of The Rape of Europa, distract the eye from the ethical ideals of rape. They also add to the integrity of the painting contrast with the hidden metaphorical meaning of the painting; the heroic rape imagery of political and sexual male dominance. Titian establishes the sequence of space by creating a dreamlike landscape, which restricts the characters respectively to situate in

the painting. This allows the viewer to imagine himself as Zeus in the painting without being overwhelmed by contrary Baroque style of recessional, projecting the composition to the viewer as well as creating movement in the breakdown of the plane. The recessional and plane styles together invite the viewer to become Zeus with the combinations of style: Recessional depths, movement of vision, articulate positioning of the positions of characters. The recessional depths of the pastoral scene are enhanced by the majestic sunset that only adds to the magnificence of The Rape of Europa. While the characters seem to be in motion, inviting the viewer to be a part of the scene, the plane style protects the integrity of the composition by creating a structure for the characters. The three different stages set for the characters are as followed: Zeus and Europa, King Agenor and his queen on the adjacent river bank, the angelic cupids flying in the left hand corner. In context the two different styles give the painting a degree of invitation to the viewer and simultaneously retain the vision to the viewer bestowing Zeuss power of political and male sexual dominance. Titian balances the recessional and plane styles with utmost talent, the integrity of the both styles add to the visual dream like complexity of the painting. The dualistic aspects of closed form and open form are respectively balanced; creating a foundation that is emphasized by the line and dissolving the line which underestimates the use of color, light and shadow. The quality of restriction that exists in closed form allows the foundation to be maintained; setting the boundaries of structures and forms. Titians use of closed form is outlined by use of lines that draw boundaries throughout the scene. Thus, observe the mountain ranges, adjacent river bank, receding river, the forms of Europa and the angelic cupids. They are all concrete in form and structure, yet the simultaneous use of open form elaborates the use of the line, which sets the boundaries, through its purpose of adding color, light and shadow. This dualistic approach to open and closed forms allows the picture to literally

come alive to the viewer. The use of color, light and shadow is only enhanced by the restricting boundaries of the foundation of linear qualities. The use of dark and light from the mountains to the easterly skies throws the whole scene into a clash of passion. While disguised as a white bull, Zeus carries of his white clothed virgin in manner that expresses purity, which again takes away from the ethical ideals of rape and draws the viewer into the vision. The dualistic aspects of unity and multiplicity are respectively balanced through Titians truly amazing mastery of painting; this is concurrent with the fact that he painted this piece during his later years. . The combination of multiplicity and unity is outlined in the appearance that each character supports the existence of another, while retaining their own independence. The multiplicity of The Rape of Europa is outlined in the fact that each character is painted with utmost meticulousness and can be viewed independently. The characters exist separately on the basis in complexity of the planer style; allowing the forms to be viewed separately through different position in the painting. The Unity is expressed because the integrity of whole inspired poem Metamorphoses, written by the roman poet in 1 B.C.E., must be taken into account. The complexity of the poem might lack meaning and significance if Europa and Zeus existed without her father King Agenor. This is not the case because the supporting characters are included, giving entirety to the entire composition. Thus the complexity in composition of The Rape of Europa, isolates the characters while adhering together in unison. The dualistic aspects of absolute clarity and relative clarity also add to the complexity of the painting, which cleanses the ethical ideals of rape. In so doing, The Rape of Europa is pronounced with tremendous popularity today, as it was in Europe. The undisputable underlying themes of political and male dominance are thus emphasized by absolute/relative clarity and the ability to give the composition a surrealistic scene, within the boundaries of the line. The

emphasis of the line in absolute clarity upholds this paintings composition with well defined clarity. The colors and the degrees of light are restricted by emphasis of the line, which distinguish the structure, as well as the figures. The emphasis of the line pertaining to the figures, sky, mountains, river and riverbank are all examples of how the line maintains control over titians dramatic use of color, light, and degree dark. The extravagant color coordination is retained by the emphasis of the line, which can be seen specifically along the riverside, which extends into the open sea. The different colors of the riverbank, as the path of vision leads the viewers eyes back, change dramatically. The use of relative clarity by Titian is expressed in the sort of surrealistic solidity of the forms. The overdramatized positions of Europa, on top of the white bull, the angelic cupids (common in roman mythology), and King Agenor with his queen; all utilize relative clarity because of their surrealistic qualities. When Titian uses relative clarity he emphasizes this surrealistic scene. Notice how they all retain their spaces respectively, not taking away from the detail, only adding to the visual complexity of the masterpiece. The line is maintained, despite the vibrant use of color, giving the viewer a complex visual representation of the Rape of Europa. Thus the contrast between relative/absolute clarity can give the European noble a true fantasy; imagining himself as Zeus, yet all the while retaining its political and sexual assertion. The sky is a mix of dark/light shades, consisting of blue, black, white, red, pink and orange, an absolutely beautiful backdrop that encloses the scene in romantic scene. This painting, as well as other Heroic rape paintings, was used to inspire political and sexual male dominance for European nobles. The metaphorical implications, of Heroic rape are interesting in comparison of popularity to the present day United States and medieval Europe. Titians representation of The Rape of Europa is a metaphorical implication of political

dominance: the white bulls seduction of the virgin maid is the submission of the peasants to the rule of their nobles. Interestingly many European princes were expected to obtain one of these Heroic rape paintings to show their royalty. Sexually, the painting is important, because the white bull is symbolic of male sexual power; the complexity of the Titians composition is to capture the viewer in a dreamlike state where he can be aroused by assuming the characteristic of the Greek deity Zeus. The prince or viewer metaphorically adapts the political and sexual male dominance, which almost dissolves into his personality. The reasons previously stated for The Rape of Europa being held in such high regards, may allude to the fact that America shares similar qualities of erotic romanticism, political and sexual male dominance that European nobles use too. The popularity of the painting in medieval and current times was caused by the dynamic dual composition of Baroque, integrated with the Renaissance style, as described by Wolfflin and the metaphorical implications of heroic rape imagery. These dualist styles of painting are used by Titian to deduct from the ethical ideals of rape and portray the scene with absolute magnificence. The roman poet Ovid relates this perception of a romantic encounter of Zeus and the Nymph Europa, in his poem Metamorphoses, Where now, in his divinest form arrayd. In his true shape he captivates the maid: Who gazes on him with wondering eyes. 90 A-

1. Ovid. Written 1 A.C.E Metamorphoses Europas Rape. 2. Wolfin principles of art history: the problem of development in painting styles 3. Baroque & Rococo Art Culture 4. Excerpts from Diane Wolfthal