The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
The Rape of Europa
  • François Boucher (1703 - 1770)
  • The Rape of Europa
  • France
  • c. 1732 - c. 1735
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 230.8 x 273.5 cm
  • P484
  • Grand Staircase
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • Ovid’s Metamorphoses (II, 835-75) tells of the abduction of Europa by Jupiter, disguised as a bull. Charmed by the bull’s good nature, Europa climbed on his back, whereupon he bore her off into the waves, only stopping on Crete to ravish her. Boucher's ironic rendering concentrates on the gallant aspects of the scene, eschewing any reference to the story’s inherent violence.
    Together with its pendant P487, the painting formed part of a group of works, painted without fee for the lawyer Derbais between c. 1731 and c. 1735. They were hung in Derbais's billiard room and the staircase: the two paintings at the Wallace Collection, a 'Triumph of Venus' (Paris, Romanian Embassy), 'Venus and Vulcan (Paris, Musée du Louvre) and 'Aurora and Cephalus' (Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts), as well as four paintings of putti depicting the seasons and probably another overdoor of amors. At that time, Boucher was aiming to build his reputation with potential patrons after his stay in Italy. The canvases greatly impressed contemporaries, establishing the young artist’s reputation as one of the leading history painters of eighteenth-century Paris. The canvas provides a full range of qualities, a learned composition, proficiency of landscape painting, close knowledge of venetian painting, that gave an overview of Boucher's newly acquired skills.