The Rape of Europa: The Intriguing History of Titian's Masterpiece
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The Rape of Europa is a completely novel popular history of art book centering on one of Titian's most celebrated masterpieces. By telling the history of this painting from its origin to the present day, Charles FitzRoy includes fascinating accounts of King Philip II of Spain and how his art collecting reveals a dichotomy at its heart. The painting itself is an extremely erotic description of the famous classical myth based on the account in Ovid's Metamorphoses. It was commissioned as a wedding present for Charles I and his French queen Henrietta Maria, and was later copied by Rubens and exerted a strong influence on Velázquez. In the eighteenth century the painting was given by the King of Spain to the Duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XV. Orleans was the greatest art collector of his day, using the brilliant connoisseur and dealer Pierre Crozat as his agent. At this stage the story becomes one of skullduggery.
The Rape of Europa painting is the most celebrated example of how rich Americans managed to purchase works of art from British collections and how Bernard Berenson made a huge fortune out of authenticating paintings for rich patrons, always purely for profit. This thrilling book is part art history and part detective story, and is an entirely original way of telling a story.
of Poliziano’s text. It was Ovid’s Metamorphoses, however, with its graphic and light-hearted description of the loves of the gods and mortals, that was to prove the most popular source for artists. The first illustrated copy of the Metamorphoses, published in Venice in 1497, showed to a wider audience what a rich source of visual imagery his myths possessed. A number of translations proved an instant hit when they were published in the sixteenth century. The myth of Europa, so popular with
Flight into Egypt by Pietro da Cortona and Jacopo Bassano. Subjects were also mixed up so that the lawyer Mathieu Marais, who wrote an account of the regency of Louis XV, was shocked that religious paintings were placed next to erotic nudes. For most visitors the total effect was quite overwhelming. Masterpieces by the finest Old Masters hung alongside gilded sculptures and martial trophies, above commodes by Boulle, the greatest cabinet maker of the day, and lacquer cabinets filled with
Adonis, Perseus and Actaeon, are all clothed) and appreciated the paintings primarily for their physical beauty. In addition, Philip trusted Titian’s judgement. Working for a prince who was shortly to become the most powerful ruler in Europe (Philip’s father Charles V abdicated in 1555, leaving his brother Ferdinand to succeed him as Holy Roman Emperor while Philip himself took control of all his other possessions), Titian was given complete independence in his choice of subjects and how he
paired together during the time of Philip II). The marquess’s copy of the Rape of Europa had been owned by the neo-classical painter Gavin Hamilton, and by the notable collector William Young Ottley, and was generally considered to be a sketch for the Europa in Darnley’s collection. Hertford’s agent Samuel Mawson described it as ‘much finer than the finished picture’ when it appeared for sale in 1857, and Hertford concurred, writing that ‘the Titian is only a study but I dare say very
Lepanto, Battle of 28, 33, 59 Lerma, Francisco Gomez de Sandoval, Duke of 55, 66 Lindsay, Lord 149 Lippi, Filippino 48 Lorenzo de’ Medici 47 Louis, Duke of Orléans 4, 98–101 Louis, Victor 103, 108 Louis XIII, King of France 54, 64, 90 Louis XIV, King of France 3, 54, 73, 81, 83, 91, 95, 97, 103–4, 184 Louis XV, King of France 90, 98, 102, 123 Louis XVI, King of France 3, 102, 106–10, 112, 120–3, 145 Louis XVIII, King of France 114, 145 Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans 101 Louis