Coast View with the Abduction of Europa

Object Details


Coast View with the Abduction of Europa


Claude Lorrain (Claude Gellée) (French, 1604 or 1605 ? - 1682)






Oil on canvas


96.2 x 167.6 cm (37 7/8 x 66 in.)

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The maiden Europa rests atop a white bull, unaware it is the god Jupiter in disguise. According to the tale in Ovid's Metamorphoses, soon the animal will abduct her across the waves. Until then, she and her attendants festoon the seemingly innocent beast with flowers, while her blue drapery flutters in the breeze. In the upper right corner, a hazy poetic light illuminates her home city of Tyre, further evoking an idyllic antique world.

Claude Lorrain is known for painting complicated images that achieve a tranquil balance. This scene appears bucolic, but his composition and details also hint of impending danger. Beyond the field of delicate flowers, for example, a craggy tower looms. The women fail to notice that the bull is poised in anticipation, already straightening one of his legs for flight. Whitecaps gather behind them on the darkening sea, the backdrop to Europa's fate.

Even in his day, Claude was known for developing a style called the Ideal Landscape, in which nature on the canvas surpasses the real thing in its beauty, harmony, and refinement. Here he balances formal elements, like the upright trees, ship, and towers, against the open expanse of sea and sky. Offshore, he juxtaposes the huge galleon and all its impeccable detail in the rigging and carved decoration, with Europa still on land. The maritime theme also had a deeper resonance for Claude's contemporaries, as in art criticism, the abduction of Europa was compared to a ship leaving shore.

French by birth, and working in Rome, Claude often went into the countryside to do studies of nature. One of his hallmarks is the use of a unifying light, which gives this work a kind of gentle glow. The romance is punctuated by long shadows coming in from the left, distinctive of his favorite afternoon light, which help frame the drama at center stage.

about 1645

Private Collection (Paris, France)

by 1771

Sir Joshua Reynolds, British, 1723 - 1792 (London, England)

Probably Robert Smith, first baron Carrington, 1752 - 1838, by inheritance to his son, Robert Smith, second baron Carrington by 1842.

by 1842

Robert John Carrington, second baron Carrington, 1796 - 1868 (Wycombe Abbey, Buckinghamshire, England)

Rupert Clement George Carrington, fourth baron Carrington, 1852 - 1929 [upon his death sold Christie's, London, May 9, 1930, lot 14 (1250 gns.) to Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam]

1930 - 1940

Jacques Goudstikker, 1897 - 1940, looted by the Nazis, under the direction of Herman Göring, ca. May 1940. With Göring July 13, 1940.

1940 - 1945

In the possession of Hermann Göring, 1893 - 1946, recovered by the Allies, 1945.


In the custody of The State of the Netherlands (Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit, The Hague), no. 1431.

1948 - 1975

Dienst voor's Rijks Verspreide Kunstvoorwerpen, The Hague, inv. no. NK 1431.

1975 - 1985

Dienst Verspreide Rijkscollectie, The Hague, inv. no. NK 1431.

1985 - 1997

Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst, The Hague, inv. NK 1431.

1997 - 2006

Institute Collectie Amsterdam, inv. NK 1431, on loan to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam until 2006. Restituted to Marei von Saher February 6, 2006.

2006 - 2007

Marei von Saher (object in London, England), sold through Simon C. Dickinson Ltd to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007.

Nouvelles Acquisitions de la Collection Goudstikker (November 8, 1930 to January 3, 1931) (Cat. 37; ill.)
  • Goudstikker Gallery, (Amsterdam), November 8 to December 13, 1930
  • Rotterdamschen Kunstkring, (Rotterdam), December 20, 1930 to January 3, 1931
Tentoonstelling van Oude Kunst uit he bezit van den internationalen Handel (July 1, 1936 to September 30, 1936) (Cat. 99; ill.)
  • Rijksmuseum, (Amsterdam), July 1 to September 30, 1936
Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen en Antiquiteiten geexposeerd door den Kunsthandel J. Goudstikker N.V. Amsterdam (December 17, 1936 to January 10, 1937) (Cat. 33; ill.)
  • Rotterdamschen Kunstkring, (Rotterdam), December 17, 1936 to January 10, 1937
Nederlandse 17e eeuwse italianiserende landscapschilders (March 10, 1965 to May 30, 1965) (Cat. 173)
  • Centraal Museum, (Utrecht), March 10 to May 30, 1965
Herrineringen aan Italië. Kunst en toerisme in de 18de eeuw (May 19, 1984 to November 25, 1984) (Cat. 45)
  • Noordbrabants Museum, ('s-Hertogenbosch), May 19 to July 22, 1984
  • Provincie Overijssel, Kasteel 't Nijenhuis (bij Heino), August 4 to September 30, 1984
  • Frans Hals Museum, (Haarlem), October 13 to November 25, 1984
Chefs-d'oeuvre de la peinture française des musées néerlandais, XVIIe - XVIIIe siècles (September 5, 1992 to March 7, 1993) (Cat. 32)
  • Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, September 5 to October 25, 1992
  • Institut Néerlandais, (Paris), October 30 to December 20, 1992
  • Stichting tot Beheer Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, (Rotterdam), January 15 to March 7, 1993
Claude Lorrain and the Ideal Landscape (September 15 to December 6, 1998) (Cat. 45)
  • National Museum of Western Art (Tokyo), September 15 to December 6, 1998
Claude Lorrain et le monde des dieux (May 5 to August 20, 2001) (Cat. 8)
  • musée départemental d'art ancien et contemporain, (Epinal), May 11 to August 20, 2001

Catalogus van de tentoonstelling van oude kunst uit het bezit van den internationalen handel, exh. cat. (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1936), p. 25, no. 99.

Education Resources

Education Resource




Painting Europa

Lesson in which students compare and contrast two depictions of the myth of the abduction of Europa, and study related literary and artistic devices.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts


Three/Five-Part Lesson

Related Media
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    Audio: Coast View with the Abduction of Europa