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Annotated works

DE VOS, Martin

(Antwerp, Belgium, 1532-1603)

The Rape of Europa

Oil on oak panel

133,7 x 174,5 cm

c. 1590

Renaissance and Mannierism (16th Century - Early 17th Century)

N.° inv. 69/241

Donated by Horacio Echevarrieta in 1919


DE VOS, Martin on Online collection

The theme represented by De Vos in this painting was related by Ovid in his Metamorphoses. The god Jupiter, in love with Europa, daughter of the Phoenician King Agenor, turned into a bull to abduct her and take her to Crete, where he possessed her. The young girl can be seen in the background, before the abduction, playing on the shore with her companions while Mercury glides in the sky surrounded by cupids, one of whom holds Jupiter's rays in his hands.

Martin de Vos, having attained the full maturity of his style, was inspired by a composition painted by Titian between 1559 and 1562, at present kept at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The painter reveals his skill in the execution of grounds and of anecdotal details, in the purest Flemish tradition, and in the portrayal of the female nude. This figure is impeccably rendered in sfumato, and the light seems to emerge from the flesh through soft transparencies. The yellow robe and the undulating red cloth grant the composition its colour and movement. In short, this work—one of the best and most interesting of those by De Vos—shows a perfect synthesis of Italian taste and his refined Flemish training.

Martin de Vos probably began his career in the workshop run by his father, Pieter de Vos. He travelled to Italy around the year 1552 accompanying Pieter Brueghel the Elder, and settled in Rome and Florence. In Venice he worked in Tintoretto's studio as a specialist in landscape painting. Upon his return to Antwerp in 1558 he became the most distinguished Italianate artist in the city.  [A.S.L.]

Selected bibliography:
L'art Flamand dans les Collections Espagnoles. Bruges : Les Presses Saint Augustin, 1958, pp. 107, n.º 81.

B.H.M. Mutsaers. "Literaire bronnen voor Marten de Vos, ontvoering van Europa" en Album Discipulorum J. G. van Gelder. Utrecht : Haentjens Dekker & Gumbert, 1963, pp. 63-65, il. 2.

Margarita Estella. "Algunas obras de Martín de Vos en España"en Archivo Español de Arte, n.º 177, 1972, p. 67.

Xesqui Castañer; Xose Manuel Buxan ; Aurora Suarez. "Las formas artísticas de los siglos XV, XVI y XVII en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao" en Kobie : bellas artes, n.º 6. Bilbao : Diputación Foral de Bizkaia = Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia,1989, pp. 234 y 236, il. 12. 

Xesqui Castañer. Pinturas y pintores flamencos, holandeses y alemanes en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Bilbao : Fundación Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa, 1995, pp. 134-136.

Fiamminghi a Roma, 1508-1608 : artistes des Pays-Bas et de la principaute de Liege a Rome à la Renaissance. [Cat. exp.]. Bruxelles : Societé des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts, 1995, p.30.

Peters H. Gommers. Europe - What´s in a name. Belgium : Leuven University Press, 2001, p.129.

Taurus : del mito al ritual. [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederretako Museoa, 2010, p. 221, n.º 20.

Ana Sánchez- Lassa de los Santos. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : guía. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederretako Museoa, 2011 (1ª ed. 2006; ed. inglés; ed. francés; ed. euskera), p. 37, n.º 23, ad vocem.

Annotated works