Women, Myth & Power’ at Gardner Museum puts ‘Rape of Europa’ in new light

Even though it is only a small museum with only a few pieces on display, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is an absolute treasure. It is the perfect place to spend the morning while taking a break from a hot summer day. We got there an hour before opening and the place was already bustling. I only wish there was a bigger crowd, as many of the pieces were hard to see.

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This is an example of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reviewer arriving late to a tale, as though too preoccupied to do so until now. The plot revolves on rape.

The New York Times art critic Holland Cotter compared Titian’s painting “Rape of Europa” in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston to a “small supernova” (you know, like an explosion of a star). The blast’s brightness apparently blurred his eyesight, leading him to remark that the artwork “raises serious concerns about how aesthetics and ethics may collide.”

sluggish learner

Holland, where have you been?

In her 2003 book “Where Ethics and Aesthetics Meet: Titian’s Rape of Europa,” art historian A. W. Eaton posed the same issue. It’s difficult to comprehend why, even if you hadn’t read it, you’re just now seeing that Europa is being raped. The artwork does not, however, represent the actual act. However, it depicts a terrified woman spread-eagled with her clothes disordered and her kidnapper, Zeus, lurking close in the shape of a leering bull. All of this should have forewarned you a long time ago.

Perhaps your omg response is due to the fact that there are six Titian paintings in one room. And, considering that each depicts a power struggle with a woman, the effect was felt strongly.

It’s not for nothing that the museum calls the show “Women, Myth & Power.”

Art coup

Your late discovery that Titian’s beautiful images are awful scenario, on the other hand, is a supernova in and of itself. I’m picturing you shouting that this exhibit “marks an art historical victory” for the institution. There is no coup here, Holland, no historical upheaval.

These images date back to the sixteenth century. You must have seen them previously in your years at the Times, which began in 1998.

The exhibit in Boston isn’t brand new; it’s already on display at the National Gallery in London and the Prado in Madrid. Nonetheless, you claim, as if making a discovery, that “Rape of Europa” should put us all on “red alarms today” because of the #Metoo movement and ongoing stories of sexually abused women. It should have notified us much sooner.

However, you are correct in wondering how such work from five centuries ago can be appreciated through the lens of today. I agree that “Rape of Europa” raises questions regarding “whether any work, no matter how magnificent, can be regarded immune from moral criticism.” Clearly, museums must do more than record the facts on artists’ tombstones.


“The picture is powerful,” you say in your inquiry. But is it lovely?” – a good point. Aesthetics are no longer enough to sustain art. The complexities of our time demand that we think about them. Power plays over women should be included in current cultural material in art museums that exhibit narrative images of power plays over women painted when that was a way of life.

Their display placards need to be redesigned.

With this show, the Gardner definitely succeeds. The museum commissioned two artists to create a video that gives Europa a voice in order to “liberate her from the subservience and mute role she had long been compelled to play in the old myth,” according to the institution’s website.

Perhaps viewing Titian through the eyes of a twenty-first-century observer was what enlightened you, Holland.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the strongest woman in mythology?

The strongest woman in mythology is Hera, the Queen of Olympus.

What is the most famous myth?

The most famous myth is the story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun with wings made from wax and feathers.

Is there a Greek god of women?

There is no Greek god of women.

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