Coast Scene with Europa and the Bull Claude Lorrain Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Coast Scene with Europa and the Bull dates from 1634 and can today be found in the permanent collection of the Kimbell Art Museum in Texas, USA.

Claude Lorrain was commissioned by Charles de Créquy, the French ambassador to Rome, for this painting. The artist achieved most of his success within this Italian city but did travel elsewhere fairly regularly in order to find new influences for his work, as well as to acquire new patrons. The content of this painting links directly with Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which itself has inspired many artists over the last few centuries. The story goes that a snow-white bull attracts Princess Europa who decides to sit on its back. In fact Jupiter is posing as the bull and has fooled the princess. He plans to take advantage of this by abducting her and crossing the nearby river with her upon his back. This type of content is entirely typical of the artist who also sometimes took inspiration from religious scripture as well. Claude frequently included small figures in the foregrounds of his paintings to produce these different themes, with landscapes dominating most of the rest of each composition.

The usual features of a Claude Lorrain landscape are all present and correct - there is the classical architecture which sits to the right hand side, with a number of columns capturing our focus. There is then a plethora of figures in the foreground where the content of the title is delivered. A tall tree stands to the left, marking the boundary of the painting, whilst across the centre we find a river leading away into the distance, with a series of ships and mountains further back. The sky covers more than half of the vertical space, though without much detail other than a transition in light and tone, leaving a strong contrast between the background and foreground. Anyone familiar with the artist will immediately recognise this piece as one of his own, for Claude had an unusual, unique style which combined Italian and French influences, as well as a love for classical culture.

Coast Scene with Europa and the Bull is sized at 170cm by 199cm, making it a fairly large artwork. Lorrain started to use larger and larger canvases as his ambitions grew over time, though the actual style of his paintings remained constant throughout. He had a number of high profile patrons who was happy with what he was delivered to them and he did not want to risk losing those connections by experimenting too much with a formula that was already proven. It would be later artists who would take his achievements and take them into new directions and his legacy would impact many parts of European art, not just Italy, where he was based, and France, where he was originally from.