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Serov’s Painting. rape of Europe

The ancient Greek myth of the beautiful Princess Europa, kidnapped by the Almighty Zeus, is one of the most famous. Many artists used this ancient narrative and offered various artistic, stylistic and compositional solutions.

Important is the fact that the etymological origin of one of the continents is associated with the name of this girl, meaning, most likely, “sunset” or “wide-eyed”. Thus, European culture has a special attitude to this myth.

Europe was playing with her friends on the beach near the sea, and her beauty and grace was noticed by the main God-the Olympian. Blinded by passion, Zeus decided to kidnap her. Taking the form of a snow-white non-aggressive bull, he appeared before the girls.

Frivolous beauties approach the bull, decorate its horns with flowers. But when young Europe decided to ride it, the animal suddenly rushes into the sea and takes it to the island of Crete.

In his painting” the Abduction of Europe”, Valentin Serov captured exactly the moment when the mighty Zeus in the form of a bull crosses the sea, and the girl sits on his back.

But in the interpretation of the famous Russian painter, this story departed from the academic canons and acquired a completely different sound, glorifying the artist.
After receiving an order to perform paintings in Russia, Valentin Serov made a trip to the island of Crete and thoroughly studied the remains of the Palace of Knossos. When creating his canvas, the painter used stylization techniques and bright colors that are typical for the modernist aesthetics.

Departing from the ancient tradition, Serov depicted a snow-white bull with a reddish-white spot in the middle of the forehead, and the expression of the bull’s muzzle is very humanized. This bright orange spot looks particularly impressive, expressive and beautiful against the blue-purple sea and white waves.

The horizontal direction of the Central figures increases the movement. To achieve this dynamism, Serov lengthened the bodies of the bull, the girl, and the Dolphin.

To convey the power of a stormy sea, the painter places the horizon high above and uses steep waves to blow up the horizon line with huge sea waves. The power of the bull is conveyed in the way it strongly and fearlessly cuts through these steep waves.

The interesting thing about this picture is that the young beauty on the back of Zeus, who took the form of a bull, does not look scared at all.

She sits in an uncomfortable position for riding an animal, as if to demonstrate that she is not afraid of anything and only slightly holds on to the incredibly long horns of the powerful animal.

The girl calmly looks back and, apparently, says goodbye to her past, all dear to her heart – her friends, parents and acquaintances, but she does not feel joyful feelings for the unknown future, but knows that all this is happening for the better.

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