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

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Antique iconography
Sculpture : metopes and statuettes

  Representative works   Comparative analysis   Study of a work  

Selection of representative works

Fragment of a relief vase from Beotia (640 B.C.) -  Paris, BN
Europa on the bull, Metope from a Sikyon Temple ( 560-555 B.C.) - Archaeological  Museum,  Delphi
Metope from temple Y at  Selinonte (580-560 B.C.)
Terra cotta from Beotia (470-460 B.C.) - Paris, Louvre Museum
  1. Fragment of relief vase from Tenos (640 B.C.) - Beotia, Greece - Paris, National Library (inv. 3003) - in A. de Ridder, "Catalogue des vases peints de la Bibliothèque nationale", Paris, 1902, pl. 94
  2. Metope from a Sikyon temple (560-555 B.C) - Archaeological Museum, Delphi, Greece
    A reproduction of this metope is available on the University of Erlangen's website.
    Address : http://www.phil.uni-erlangen.de/~p1altar/photo_html/bauplastik/metopen/delphi/delph5.html
  3. Metope from Temple Y at Selinonte (580-560 B. C.) - Archaeological Museum, Palermo, Sicily
    A presentation of the archaeological site of Selinonte is available on the University of Geneva's website (introduction at classical archaeology).
    The website "Zeus's house of seduction" offers pictures of Danae, Europa, Ganymed, Io, Leda, Leto, Semele. In this Picture Gallery, black and white reproductions of the metopes from Delphi and Selinonte.
    Address : http://www.ecsel.psu.edu/~rreynold/zeus_main.htm
  4. Terra cotta from Beotia (470-460 B. C.) - Louvre Museum, Paris, France
    Address : http://cartelfr.louvre.fr/cartelfr/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=6793

Suggestions for a comparative analysis

On the metope from a Sikyon temple, Europa is represented leaning on the bull's neck.

Fresco from KnossosOdile Wattel de Croizant suggests that this position is characteristic of continental Greece. The representation of Europa sitting on the bull, upright, holding on to the horn, would be characteristic of minoan art and might be associated with pictures of "bull-leaping", a kind of contest in which both men and women take part. (cf. this fresco from Knossos, kept at the archaeological Museum of Herakleion, presented on the website of the Hellenic Ministery of Culture).
Adresse : http://www.culture.gr/2/21/211/21123n/e211wn01.html

Elements for a study

We provide a more detailed analysis of the metope from Temple Y at Selinonte.


Europa is sitting on the bull, upright, holding on to the horn with her left hand and keeping her balance with the right. The young maiden is seen from three-quarter face ; her tunic, cut at the waist, falls down to her ankles. Her face is calm, framed by locks of long hair.

The bull's head is quite inexpressive; the position of its back is conditioned by a device on the part of the artist who thus manages to make the scene fit into a reduced space. It is probably for the same reason that the tail appears bent on the right hind leg. Several other representations use the movement of the tail to suggest speed.

The young maiden's position is quite stiff ; there is no detail to remind us that we're dealing with a "Rape" (no fearful expression or looking back...), but a few elements suggest movement and travel : the position of the bull's legs suggests swimming (the artist thus indicates that the god is crossing the sea, symbolized by two dolphins).

The motif is truly Europa's but the whole scene draws on the image of the "Goddess with the Bull", from which the Myth of Europa developed.

In order to completely understand the meaning of this metope, it is necessary to know the context, and with what other mythological scenes this representation is associated.