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RAPE OF EUROPA (DETAIL: CUPIDS), 1562

About the Artwork

Europa is in the grip of a terrifying experience: snatched away from her home and family, she is precariously balanced on the back of the bull, in real danger of sliding to another terrible fate in the dark sea below. Titian has visualized the fearfulness of the deep with the two scaly, spiny ocean predators that gleam in the turbulent waters, the fanged mouth of one agape as it follows the thrashing motion of the animal. But something else is happening; the band of shadow across her upturned face makes us particularly conscious of Europa’s rolling eyes, and the direction of their glance. Europa has caught sight of two cupids (spiritelli d’amore or little spirits of love), personifying another passion which is yet more powerful than that of fear.

Source: Stephen J. Campbell, "Europa," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 103-107

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