Noël-Nicolas Coypel, The Abduction of Europa, 1726-27

In Greek mythology, Zeus decided to seduce Europa, and so transformed himself into a white bull and mixed in with her father’s herds. When Europa saw him she went over and gave him a pat. Seeing how tame and agreeable the bull was, Europa hopped on top for ride, but the bull took off running for the sea and swam all the way to the island of Crete, raped her, and then made her queen of the island. Zeus later created the shape of the bull in the stars in her honour and called the constellation Taurus.

Coypel gives us the moment when the bull swims across the sea; Europa looks up confusedly at Zephyr, the god of the west wind who gently pushes them along, as putti dance around in the sky. Mermen and the Nereids frolic in the sea; bringing up the rear is Poseidon (holding the triton) next to his wife Amphitrite, who is enthroned on a giant clam shell chariot pulled by dolphins.

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