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 The Myth of Europa 
Documents
 The myth of Europa - Antique iconography :  metopes and statuettes,  ceramics,  roman paintings and mosaics - Europa in greek and latin litterature - References and links 
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Create your own file about Europa - Study two modern representations of the myth

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Antique Iconography
Ceramics from the VIth - Vth Century B. C.

  Representative works Comparative analysis   Study of a work  

 

A selection of representative works

Œnochoé à figures noires (550-500 av. J.-C.) - © Cleveland, Museum of Art 29978 - The Beazley Archive Peintre d'Athéna,  Œnochoé à figures noires, (510-500 av. J.-C.),  © University of Mississippi,  1977.3.73 - The Perseus Digital Library Hydrie à figures rouges (525-475) - © Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 1927.4502 - The Beazley Archive Groupe de Léagros, Lécythe à figures noires (500 av. J.-C.) - ©  Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, RISD 22.216 - The Perseus Digital Library
Péliké à figures rouges (500-450) - ©  Agrigento - Museo Archeologico Regionale, 1319 - The Beazley Archive
  1. Black-figure Oinochoe (550-500 B. C.) - Cleveland Museum - © The Beazley Archive
  2. Black-figure Oinochoe (510-500 B. C.) - University of Mississippi Museum - © The Perseus Digital Library
  3. Red-figure Hydria (525-475 B. C.) - Oxford, Ashmolean Museum - © The Beazley Archive
  4. Black-figure Lekythos (500 B. C.) - Rhode Island School of Design - © The Perseus Digital Library
  5. Red-figure Pelike (500-450 B. C.) - Archeological Musem of Agrigento - © The Beazley Archive

Suggestions for a comparative analysis

Black-figure Oinochoe (550-500 B. C.) - Cleveland Museum - © The Beazley Archive
Œnochoé à figures noires (550-500) - ©  Cleveland , Museum of art - The Beazley Archive
 

Static scene : Europa is sitting on the bull who seems to be resting.
The scene is oriented from left to right.

  Europa is wearing a long gown which shows her arms : she wears her hair in a small bun ; her head is slightly bent ; her hands seem to be resting on the bull's back.
  Powerful and bulky, the bull appears extremely calm ; the painter seems to have taken much care in representing the animal.
  Décor : a garland of plants isolates the "picture" made up by the couple.
Black-figure Oinochoe(510-500 B. C.) - University of Mississippi - © The Perseus Digital Library
Œnochoé à figures noires (510-500 av. J.-C.) - Université du  Mississippi
 

Dynamic scene : movement is suggested by numerous elements.
The scene is oriented from left to right.

  Europa is wearing a long gown which shows her white arms ; she's firmly holding on to one of the bull's horns with her left hand ; her right hand is holding her dress.
  The bull : here, the movement stands out : forelegs lifted, supple neck, tail upright.
  Décor : plant motifs suggest the earth. The space underneath the bull has brown stripes. It could possibly represent the Sea...
Red-figure Hydria (525-475 B. C.) - Oxford, Ashmolean Museum - © The Beazley Archive
Hydrie à figures rouges (525-475) - © Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 1927.4502 - The Beazley Archive
 

Dynamic scene : movement is suggested by the bull's legs.
The scene is oriented from left to right.

  Europa is wearing a dress with wide pleats. Her right hand is resting on the bull's back. [The upper part of the representation is lost.]
  The bull is represented quite gracefully : small head, wide eyes. The head, thrust backwards, suggests the idea that Europa is holding on to the horn.
  Décor : The scene stands out on a black background with no ornaments at all.
Black-figure Lekytos (500 B. C.) - Rhode Island School of Design - © The Perseus Digital Library
Lécythe à figures noires (500 av. J.-C.) - Musée de Rhode Island - The Perseus Digital Library
 

Static scene : this is probably due to the constraints imposed by the support (the narrowness of the lekytos). The scene is oriented from left to right.

  Europa is wearing a very decorated gown and has a crown on her head. Unlike the other characters, her limbs are not white. She's firmly holding on to the bull's horn with her left hand.
  The bull is gracious: a powerful body but a small head; wide eyes. His horn is quite developed.
  Décor : One can distinguish motifs surrounding the scene. They remind one of Dionysian representations.
Red-figure Pelike(500-450 B. C.) - Archeological Museum of Agrigento - © The Beazley Archive
Péliké à figures rouges (500-450) - ©  Agrigento - Museo Archeologico Regionale - 1319 - The Beazlzy Archive
 

Dynamic scene : movement is suggested by the animal's forelegs.
The scene is oriented from left to right.

 

Dressed in a long gown, Europa seems to be sliding down the side of the bull (which could just be a device on the part of the artist to fit the motif on the vase). She's holding on to one horn with her left hand. Her right hand is resting on the bull's back. Her hair is held by a headband. Her head is turned backwards.

  The bull is gracious : powerful body, small head. His horn is quite small. The painter represented the tail as a circle.
  Décor : the scene fits perfectly onto the shape of the vase.

Elements for a study

We provide a more detailed analysis of the black-figure lekytos : Europa and the bull (Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design).
The Perseus digital Library offers 29 different vues for this vase.

Gauche de la scène : Aphrodite, le taureau
Centre et droite de la scène : Europe et le taureau, Hermès
 

"Most ceramics with black figures conform to a prototype and are organised according to two criteria : the group's position and the progressive nudity of Europa." (Odile Wattel de Croizant).

This representation seems rather "typical". But the most striking aspect is the elegance of the scene. It is due to the care put into each of the details. The bull is powerful, but his head is small and intricately drawn. He lifts it in a gesture that corresponds with his motionless stance and the young maiden holding on to his horn. Power is stressed more than violence.

The young maiden is wearing an elaborately decorated chiton and himation whose folds suggest movement. Her body is leaning forward slightly, her left hand thrust backwards so as to lean on the animal's croup. The whole is very cleverly structured so as to occupy the narrow space of the lecythes. Her hair is held by a red headband. She is not looking backwards but straight ahead; her body's movement seems to accompany the bull's steps.

Garlands of ivy surround the motif. These garlands are usually associated with Dionysos and the Maenads. Here there might be a minor motif contamination, as can be seen on numerous vases (particularly on the amphora belonging to the Leagros group of the Vatican Museum).

The presence of the gods has a precise connotation : the goddess Aphrodites who reigns over love (announcing hierogamy), and the god Hermes who is linked to travel. It therefore seems apparent that the original Myth underwent a first mutation with more emphasis put on the sacred marriage than on the abduction itself.

Détail : Europe et le taureau
Détail : la tête du taureau
Détail : Europe
Détail : plan rapproché sur Europe
Détail : Aphrodite
Détail : Hermès