The Flight of Europa

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
gilt bronze on agate base
Dimensions
25 x 30-1/2 x 8-1/4 in. (including base)
Credit line
Gift of Lucy M. Taggart in memory of her brother Thomas D. Taggart
Accession number
50.30
Collection
Currently On View

Manship achieves a witty interpretation of the classical myth of Europa, abducted by Zeus who transformed himself into a bull to carry her across the sea.

The rhythmic composition sets horizontal against vertical and speed versus stillness, as the bull's horns, tail and legs oppose Europa's upright stance.

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Paul Manship in the Machine Age

"Paul Manship energized the static, idealized forms of Greek and Roman antiquity with the controlled power and rhythms of the Machine Age. During Manship's studies at the American Academy in Rome, his intimate contact with Classical art profoundly affected his development, resulting in works such as this witty interpretation of the myth of Europa. Taking the form of a bull, the Greek god Zeus abducted the Asian maiden Europa and carried her over the sea, represented by the dolphins, to the island of Crete. The continent that was to be her new home was named for her forever after.

Never has there been a more poised victim than Manship's Europa, who appears utterly unperturbed by her abduction. She sits rigidly and cross-legged on the bull, riding backwards as she listens to the whispers of Eros. The rhythmic composition sets horizontal against vertical and speed versus stillness, with the bull's horns, tail, and legs opposing the force of Europa's upright posture. Manship was particularly interested in the surfaces of his sculptures: here, he rubbed the work to give it an antique finish. The agate base is an integral part of the composition. Its grain repeats the stylized treatment of Europa's hair and also creates the impression that the dolphins are swimming on water. Manship completed numerous public commissions, including the fire-carrying Prometheus in New York City's Rockefeller Center."

Lee, Ellen Wardwell, Anne Robinson, and Alexandra Bonfante-Warren. Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection. Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2005, p. 147.

Paul Manship’s Classical Subject Matter

Paul Manship’s academic career commenced at the St. Paul School of Art in Minnesota. At the age of nineteen, he moved to Philadelphia to continue his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Manship later relocated to New York, where he enrolled at the Art Students League. He also served as an assistant to Solon Borglum, a sculptor of Western themes, from whom he gained knowledge of animal anatomy. Manship won the coveted Prix de Rome and a fellowship to study for three years at the American Academy of Rome. It was at this time that he developed an interest in classical and archaic Greek art. Upon returning to America, these combined influences resulted in a style attractive to both modernists and conservatives in its simplification of line and detail. He created a number of sculptures characterized by a stylized form that was uniquely his own. Manship’s oeuvre includes over 700 works.

Manship adapted classical sources for his interpretation of the myth of Europa. Taking the form of a bull, Zeus abducted Europa and carried her on the back of dolphins to the Island of Crete, where she bore Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon. The muscular bull derives from ancient Minoan forms, while the maiden’s stylized hair and posture were inspired by Archaic Greek models. Never has there been a more poised victim than Manship’s Europa, riding backwards as she listens to Eros’s whisper. The forms are smooth and simplified, and the rhythmic composition balances horizontal and vertical, as well as speed and stillness.

Rathner, Susan. Archaism, Modernism, and the Art of Paul Manship. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Paul Manship energized the static, idealized forms of Greek and Roman antiquity with the controlled power and rhythms of the Machine Age. During Manship's studies at the American Academy in Rome, his intimate contact with Classical art profoundly affected his development, resulting in works such as this witty interpretation of the myth of Europa. Taking the form of a bull, the Greek god Zeus abducted the Asian maiden Europa and carried her over the sea, represented by the dolphins, to the island of Crete. The continent that was to be her new home was named for her forever after.

Never has there been a more poised victim than Manship's Europa, who appears utterly unperturbed by her abduction. She sits rigidly and cross-legged on the bull, riding backwards as she listens to the whispers of Eros. The rhythmic composition sets horizontal against vertical and speed versus stillness, with the bull's horns, tail, and legs opposing the force of Europa's upright posture. Manship was particularly interested in the surfaces of his sculptures: here, he rubbed the work to give it an antique finish. The agate base is an integral part of the composition. Its grain repeats the stylized treatment of Europa's hair and also creates the impression that the dolphins are swimming on water. Manship completed numerous public commissions, including the fire-carrying Prometheus in New York City's Rockefeller Center.

Pray tell my loving father that Europa has left her native land, seated upon a bull, my ravisher, my sailor, and, as I think, my bed-fellow.
-Nonnus, from Dionysiaca, 5th century