– JAHRGÄNGE 2014 –

Valentin Sérov
The Rape of Europa (1910)

Valentin Serov is one of the most famous Russian portraitists. His first teacher was Karl Koepping in Munich; then for many years he was a student of the great Russian painter Ilya Repin. It was thanks to Repin that at only fifteen, Valentin Serov was admitted to the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. At the age of 22 he created his famous Young Girl with Peaches and later became one of the most popular Russian artists. At the Salon of Rome in 1911 his paintings received the highest distinction, proof of artistic skills of the European scale. He died suddenly of heart attack at 46, leaving some two hundred inimitable works.

The Rape of Europa is one of Serov’s last paintings. This Greek myth was then very popular in the artistic milieu. Zeus fell in love with Europa, daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor, and presented himself before her as a bull. He tricked the princess into climbing onto his back and carried her away to the island of Crete where she became his wife. Three heroic sons were born of their union. Titian, Paolo Veronese, Rembrandt, Guido Reni, Claude Lorrain, Francois Boucher, Gustave Moreau, Francesco Albani, Nicolaes Berchem, Luca Giordano and many other artists found their inspiration in this myth.

The idea of this great painting was born during Serov’s journey to Greece in 1907. His realization of the scene of abduction nevertheless departs from academic canons: he uses a stylization characteristic of modernist aesthetics. The high skyline, the dynamism of the scene is emphasized by diagonal composition with silhouettes of the bull and slender dolphins, for even more movement. Waves, diving dolphins, Europa herself on the back of the enormous monster are depicted without too much detail, in a symbolic and highly decorative style. All colors are bright and saturated. Critics say that the choice of colors for the painting was greatly influenced by the ancient frescoes that Serov studied on the island of Crete.

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Vintage 2014