The rape of Europa is a popular theme in world art. The painting’s subject is borrowed from Greek mythology. Europa was the daughter of Phoenician king Agenor. Having turned into a bull, the king of gods Zeus abducted beautiful Europa. The artist created this art piece in the wake of his trip to Greece. Serov turned to the monuments of Creto-Mycenaean culture: in the picture's imagery, he used a rhyton shaped as a bull head from the smaller palace in Knossos on the island of Crete, the fresco paintings with a motif of flying fish from the Knossos palace and other monuments of the archaic period. Serov draws a comparison between the academic image of antiquity and the archaic period. His unique approach is also evident in the theme’s interpretation: the bull rushing forward has involuntarily turned his head backwards: the uncouth abductor of the beauty has underrated her power. Serov's Europa, unlike the frightened heroines of old masters, is self-composed. She has a perfectly symmetrical face of Greek Kore and embodies triumphant perfection. The bull's horns take on the shape of a lyre, whose invisible strings seem to give voice to the sky and the sea.
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