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The Rape of Europe
Rubens, Peter Paul (Copy after: Titian (Tiziano Vecellio))
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Rubens, Peter Paul (Copy after: Titian (Tiziano Vecellio))

The Rape of Europe

1628 - 1629. Oil on canvas.
Room 015A

Rape of Europa is a faithful copy made by Peter Paul Rubens in Madrid after an original by Titian. It shows the Phoenician princess Europa after she was abducted by Zeus, who had taken on the form of a white bull. The fearful princess, barely holding on to one of the bull´s horns, was taken to Crete, where she bore Minos. The story was told by several ancient sources, among them Ovid (43 BCE-CE 17/18), in his book Metamorphoses (II, 833-75). The posture of the abducted woman, with one breast exposed, exploits the erotic potential of the event. In late August of 1628, Rubens was summoned to Madrid to inform Philip IV of Spain, about diplomatic negotiations then taking place between Spain and England in which he was involved. The trip turned into a nine-month stay, during which Rubens made copies of many of the more than fifty paintings by Titian then in the Spanish Royal Collections. Among them was Titian´s original Europa, which hung in the king´s private summer apartments, the Cuarto bajo de verano (Lower Summer Quarters) in Madrid´s Alcazar Palace. This work, as well as other copies after Titian, was taken by Rubens to Antwerp upon his return in the spring of 1629. Several factors prompted Rubens to focus on Titian during his stay in Madrid, among them, most personally, his own interests and development as a painter. In the years immediately before traveling to Spain, Rubens gradually abandoned the carefully drawn and modeled forms found in his earlier works, which made his figures seem monumental and sculptural. Instead, he embraced a more sensuous style, in which forms are suggested through unblended brushstrokes and the rich use of color, as well as a more erotic interpretation of subject matter, for which Titian provided an essential precedent. In Spain, Rubens´s encounter with Titian´s art, especially his late works, confirmed and accelerated this painterly transformation. Rape of Europa exemplifies how Rubens both steadfastly followed Titian´s model but also departed from the Italian painter in his rendering of the female body. By employing a different technique in the depiction of Europa´s flesh, especially in the use of cool gray half-tints, and emphasizing the suppleness of her skin, Rubens demonstrated his own unique approach to form and color. Many of the paintings by Titian that Rubens copied in the Spanish Royal Collections were mythological scenes with erotic content, which, in turn, stimulated the king´s taste for this type of work by the Flemish master. In the 1630s, Philip IV commissioned similar works by Rubens for his palaces, and when the painter´s collection was put up for sale following his death in 1640, Philip IV purchased many works that depicted nudes, among them the Three Graces and the sensuous Garden of Love. He also acquired the Rape of Europa and some of the other copies after Titian that Rubens had made in Madrid and kept in his collection, including Diana and Callisto, Diana and Acteon, and Venus and Adonis. For reasons unknown -possibly stemming from practical concerns related to the movement of works of art within the different royal palaces around Madrid- Rubens´s Rape of Europa was not among those in the royal collections that were removed from public view during the eighteenth century because of excessive nudity. It was also absent from the palace´s sala reservada, where such works, including many by the artist, were housed in the Prado following the opening of the museum in 1819. After hanging in the royal collections from the time of its arrival in Madrid, the picture was in the Prado by 1834 (when the museum was known as the Real Museo de Pinturas) (Text drawn from Vergara, A.: Splendor, Myth, and Vision. Nudes from the Prado, 2016, pp. 116-119).


Technical data

Inventory number
Rubens, Peter Paul (Copy after: Titian (Tiziano Vecellio))
The Rape of Europe
1628 - 1629
Height: 182.5 cm; Width: 201.5 cm
Royal Collection (Palacio de El Pardo, Madrid, 1674, nº61; Palacio de El Pardo, Sala de la antecámara, 1701, s.n.; Palacio de El Pardo, Pieza undécima, 1747, nº119; Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, Paso de tribuna y trascuartos, 1772, nº935; Palacio Nuevo, Pieza de comer, 1794, s.n.; Palacio Nuevo, Pieza de comer, 1814-1818, nº935; Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, Madrid, Salón 1º Escuela Holandesa, 1834, nº202)

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier y Beroqui, Pedro, Inventarios Reales en 12 Volumenes y Un Indice (Fotocopias) (procedencia/provenanace), 1923.

Stechow, Wolfgang, Rubens and the Classical Tradition, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1968.

Fernández Bayton, Gloria, Inventarios reales: testamentaria del Rey Carlos II : 1701-1703 (procedencia/provenance), Museo del Prado. Patronato Nacional de Museos,, Madrid, 1975.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado: catálogo de pintura: escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado. Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 285-286.

Volk, Mary Crawford, On Rubens and Titian, JOHN & MABLE RINGLING MUSEUM OF ART / A SPECTACULAR SEASON, 1983, pp. 142-150.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Rubens copista de Tiziano, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1987, pp. 59-62.

Vergara, Alejandro, D. Rodrigo Calderón y la introducción del Arte de Rubens en España, ARCHIVO ESPAÑOL DE ARTE / ARCHIVO ESPAÑOL DE ARTE Y ARQUEOLOGIA, 67, 1994, pp. 371.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado, II, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1995, pp. 996.

Anes, Gonzalo, Las colecciones reales y la fundación del Museo del Prado, Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 178.

Goldfarb, Hilliard T., Titian and Rubens: power, politics and style, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, 1998.

Vergara, Alejandro, Rubens and his spanish patrons, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999, pp. 146.

Vergara, Alejandro, The Presence of Rubens in Spain. (Volumes i and II). Tesis D, A Bell & Howell Company, Ann Arbor, 1999, pp. 371.

Portús Pérez, Javier, La sala reservada y el desnudo en el Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado. Turner, Madrid, 2002, pp. 110.

Aterido Fernández, A.; Martínez Cuesta, J.; Pérez Preciado, J. J., Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio: inventarios reales, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004.

Rubens im Wettstreit mit Alten Meistern. Vorbild und Neuerf, Hatje Cantz, 2009, pp. 220-227.

Wood, Jeremy, Copies and Adaptations from Renaissance and Later Artist. Italian Masters II. Titian and North Italian Art in Corpus rubenianum, XXVI (2), pt. II, V. I, Arcade Press, Bruselas, 2010, pp. 178-186.

Vergara, A. Alba, L. Gayo, Mª.D, Rubens in Madrid (1628-1629): New technical evidence concerning his copies after Titian an a new portrait., Boletín del Museo del Prado., Tomo XXXI n.49, 2013, pp. 18-33.

Vergara, A, 'Peter Paul Rubens. Rape of Europa'' En:, Splendor, Myth, and Vision : Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute ; Museo Nacional del Prado,, 2016, pp. 116-119 n.12.

Burke, Jill, The European Nude 1400-1650, en: Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute ; Museo Nacional del Prado, 2016, pp. 16-49 [34].

Falomir, Miguel, Las copias de Tiziano en la coleccion real española siglos XVI y XVII, En: Actas del Congreso Las copias de las obras maestras de la pintura en las colecciones de los Austrias y el Museo del Prado. Junio 2017, Madrid, 2021, pp. 64-75 [72 f.5].

Mazzarelli, Carla, 'Moltiplicare, tradurre, interpretare. Riflessioni in margine al ruolo delle copie tra prima età moderna e ricezione storiografica contemporánea' En:, Actas del Congreso internacional Las copias de obras maestras de la pintura en las colecciones de los Austrias y el Museo del Prado. Junio 2017, Madrid, 2021, pp. 17-25 [21].

Falomir, M, Tiziano y las 'poesías'. Experimentación y libertad en la pintura mitológica, Pasiones mitológicas: Tiziano, Veronese, Allori, Rubens, Ribera, Poussin, Van Dyck, Velázquez., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2021, pp. 15-39 [39].

Other inventories +

Inv. Felipe V, El Pardo, 1747. Núm. 119.
Pieza Undezima [...] Numº 61 y 119 / Una Pintura de mas de dos Varas y media en quadro con su marco negro, que significa Europa Robada copia del Tiziano ... 12000

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1588.
Rubens. / 1588. El rapto de Europa. / El toro hiende las olas llevando encima a Europa montada sobre el. Mirale un amorcillo montado en un delfín, y otros vagan por el aire. Las compañeras de Europa lamentan desde la ribera la desgracia de la misma. / Es copia de Ticiano hecha por Rubens para el principe de Gales. / Alto 6 pies, 6 pulg; ancho 7 pies, 2 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 1614.
1614.-(1588-N.)-El rapto de Europa.- Va la ninfa robada sobre el toro que hiende las olas, haciéndole comitiva a los amores.-Figuras de tamaño natural.-Copia de un cuadro de Tiziano, que modernamente formó parte de la coleccion del Excmo. Sr. D. José de Madrazo. / También esta copia fué ejecutada para el Príncipe de Gales. Decoraba el antiguo Alc. y Pal. de Madrid, y se salvó del incendio de 1734. / Alto 1,81; ancho 2.-L.

Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, 1834. Núm. 202.
SALÓN 1º ESCUELA HOLANDESA [...] Dos cientos y dos. El rapto de Europa. De Rubens. Lº

Inv. Felipe IV, El Pardo, 1674. Núm. 61.
61 / Europa robada copia del Ticiano

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. 935.
Paso de Tribuna y Trascuartos [...] 935 / = Pardo = Otro quadro que representa la Europa sobre el toro pasando al rio de dos varas y tercia de largo y dos y quarta de caida de mano de Rubenes copiada por la de Ticiano

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. 935.
Pieza de Comer [...] 935 / Dos varas y media largo dos alto, Europa = Ticiano

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, El Pardo, 1701-1703. Núm. s.n..
Sala de la antecamara [...] {86} Ottro Lienzo de Europa robada Copia de el tiziano con marco negro tassado en doce mill Reales ... 12000 / Existe en la pieza 11mª a los numeros 61 y 119.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. s.n..
Pieza de comer [...] {13504} Otro de la misma medida que el antecedente - Europa sobre el toro- id. = 14.000

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in red color. Front, lower right corner

Exhibitions +

Arte y mito. Los dioses del Prado
15.10.2020 - 14.03.2021

Meta-painting. A Journey to the Idea of Art
15.11.2016 - 19.02.2017

Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado
Williamstown MA
12.06.2016 - 10.10.2016

Historias Naturales
19.11.2013 - 27.04.2014

05.11.2010 - 23.01.2011

Looking and Admiring. Rubens in Competition with Old Masters
25.02.2010 - 23.05.2010

Looking and Admiring. Rubens in Competition with Old Masters
23.10.2009 - 03.02.2010

Velázquez’s Fables. Mythology and Sacred History in the Golden Age
20.11.2007 - 24.02.2008

Picasso. Tradición y Vanguardia
06.06.2006 - 03.09.2006

Rubens Universel
06.03.2004 - 14.06.2004

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado - Tokio
05.03.2002 - 23.06.2002

Titian and Rubens: from master to master
23.01.1998 - 26.04.1998

Location +

Room 015A (On Display)

Update date: 03-09-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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