The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Abduction of Europa

Object Details


The Abduction of Europa


Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606 - 1669)






Oil on single oak panel

Object Number:



64.6 × 78.7 cm (25 7/16 × 31 in.)

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Object Description

In the Metamorphoses, the ancient Roman poet Ovid told a story about the god Jupiter, who disguised himself as a white bull in order to seduce the princess Europa away from her companions and carry her across the sea to the distant land that would bear her name.

During his long career Rembrandt rarely painted mythological subjects. Here he conveys a narrative story through dramatic gesture and visual effects. Bewildered, Europa grasps the bull's horn, digs her fingers into his neck, and turns back to look at her companions on the water's edge. One young woman falls to the ground and raises her arms in alarm, dropping the flower garland intended for the bull's neck into her lap, while her friend clasps her hands in consternation and watches helplessly. The carriage driver above rises to his feet and stares at the departing princess in horror. In the background, a city shrouded in mist extends along the horizon, perhaps serving as an allusion to the ancient city of Tyre as well as to contemporary Amsterdam.The dark thicket of trees to the right contrasts with the pink and blue regions of the sea and sky. Sunlight breaks through the clouds and reflects off the water, but the sky behind the trees is dark and foreboding.

A master of visual effects, Rembrandt took pleasure in describing the varied textures of sumptuous costumes and glittering gold highlights on the carriage and dresses.

- 1652

Jacques Specx, 1585 - 1652 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Source: In death inv. of 1652.

- 1736

Jeanne Baptiste d'Albert de Luynes, comtesse de Verrue, 1670 - 1736 (Paris, France; Savoy, France), upon her death, held in trust by the estate.

1736 - 1737

Estate of Jeanne Baptiste d'Albert de Luynes, comtesse de Verrue, 1670 - 1736 [sold, Verrue sale, Paris, March 27, 1737, lot 87.]

- 1771

Marie Charles Louis d'Albert, fifth duc de Luynes, 1717 - 1771, by inheritance to his son, Louis Joseph Charles Amable d'Albert, 1771.
Source: In inv. of 1771.

1771 - possibly 1793

Louis Joseph Charles Amable, sixth duc de Luynes, 1748 - 1807 [possibly sold, Luynes sale, Paillet, Lebrun, Paris, November 21, 1793, lot 18.]

by 1861 - 1865

Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, first duc de Morny, 1811 - 1865 (Paris, France) [sold, Morny sale, Pillet, Escribe, Paris, May 31, 1865, lot 70, to Constant André Say.]

1865 - 1871

Constant André Say, French, 1816 - 1871, by inheritance to his daughter, Marie Charlotte Constance Say, probably 1871.

probably 1871 - 1910

Marie Charlotte Constance Say, princesse de Broglie, 1857 - 1943 (Paris, France), sold to Thomas Agnew & Sons, August 1910.
Source: Ripps 2010, pp 63 - 65.

1910 - 1911

Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (Berlin, Germany), sold to Leopold Koppel, March 1911, for £19,000.
Source: Ripps 2010, p. 65.

1911 - 1933

Leopold Koppel, 1854 - 1933, by inheritance to his daughter, Else (Koppel) Klotz, 1933.

1933 - by 1950

Else (Koppel) Klotz (probably Pontresina, Switzerland), by either gift or inheritance to her son, Leopold Hugo Paul Klotz.
Source: Wildenstein exhibition catalogue, 1950.

by 1950 - 1993

Leopold Hugo Paul Klotz, 1909 - 1993 (New York, New York), upon his death, held in trust by the estate, 1993.

1993 - 1995

Estate of Leopold Hugo Paul Klotz, 1909 - 1993, sold through Deborah Gage Works of Art Ltd. (New York, New York) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995.

Rembrandt - Ausstellung (February 22 to April 6, 1930)
Masterpieces of Art (European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800) (May to October, 1939)
  • New York World's Fair (Queens), May to October 1939
A Loan Exhibition of Rembrandt (January 19 to February 25, 1950)
  • Wildenstein & Co. (New York), January 19 to February 25, 1950
The Age of Rembrandt (October 10, 1966 to March 5, 1967)
  • The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, October 10 to November 13, 1966
  • Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo), November 26, 1966 to January 8, 1967
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 21 to March 5, 1967
The Glory of the Golden Age (April 15 to September 17, 2000)
  • Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), April 15 to September 17, 2000
Rembrandt: Pintor de Historias (October 15, 2008 to January 6, 2009)
  • Museo del Prado (Madrid), October 15, 2008 to January 6, 2009

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Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Edward G. Hawke, ed. and trans. 8 vols. (London: Macmillan and Co., 1908-27), repr. vols. 5-8 (Teaneck: Somerset House, 1976), vol. 6, p. 135, no. 201.

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Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource




Gods, Heroes and Monsters Curriculum

Background information about Greek and Roman Mythology to accompany the curriculum “Gods, Heroes and Monsters.”

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

Dramatizing Europa

Lesson in which students observe The Abduction of Europa by Rembrandt. They choose a character in the painting and perform a tableau vivant.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts


Two-Part Lesson