(Siena (?) 1570/71 - Rome 1626)


The Rape of Europa


Oil on canvas, 73 x 84 cm


By 1660 in the Palazzo Felice del Cardinal Alessandro Montalto; Bonham’s, London, 4 July 2012, lot 13 (as Circle of Francesco Cozza).


Francesco Gatta, Letter to the editor, Giornale dell' Arte (May 2013), illustrated.


By Erich Schleier:

The "Rape of Europe" is one of the most frequently represented themes of Greek mythology, which was depicted in European art, especially in Italy from the 15th through the 18th century. The episode is narrated by Ovid (Metamorphoses, 2, 836 - 875; anf Fasti,V, 603 - 620).  "Europa was the daughter of Agenor, King of Tyros in Phoenicia. Jupiter/Zeus fell in love with her, and, disguis­ing himself as a white bull, came to where she played by the seashore with her attendants. Beguiled by the bull's good nature, she garlanded its horns with flowers and climbed upon its back. Jupiter straight away bore her out to the sea and off to Crete"(Hall), where she eventually bore Zeus three sons, Minos. Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon.


16th and 17th century Italian and Flemish painters chose various phases of the episode: the earliest one (in the sequence) shows Europa, who has just climbed the bull, whose horn she has decorated with a garland of flowers, and is surrounded by her maids (attendants). The scene occupies the full foregrou­nd and the large figures are close to the picture plane. Examples are Paolo Veronese's picture in the Doge's Palace in Venice (where in the far background other phases of the episode are depicted simul­taneously) and Jacob Jordaens' large early painting in Berlin, Gemäldegalerie (of ca. 1615/16), where hardly any hint of water is given in the left lower corner. Another example is Guido Reni's lost painting of the late Twenties, of which a fragment with the Amor survives in the Liechtenstein collection in Vaduz/Vien­na (see Sybille Ebert- Schifferer in exh. cat. Guido Reni und Europa, Frankfurt 1988,p. 185/86, A 23). The second phase of the episode is narrated in the present picture. Europa sits on the bull, which is placed close to the shore, but still on the ground, yet already at a certain spatial distance from Europa's maids, who are as­sembled in the left corner in the foreground and are not yet in the least alarmed. This interpretation of the scene by Grammatica necessitated a landsc­ape setting: the scene is given in a panoramic landscap­e, which develo­ps from left to right, from the left foreground corner to the rather high horizon with sea and a sailing boat in the far back­ground to the right. This wide panoramic landscape is quite unusual for Grammatica. Mor­phological details such as the foliage of the tree, which closes the composi­tion on the far left, in the shade, and the panoram­ic overview betray a Flemish element and point to the art of Paul Bril. It may be remembered that in 1610 Gram­matica and Paul Bril together painted in Rome "paesi di pittura" for Duke Ferdinando Gonzaga (A. Luzio 1913, p. 47; G.Papi, Antiveduto Gram­matica, 1996, p. 141). In a document of 29 January 1626 "due paesi in tela con un satiro et Cupido et con ninfa et un satiro di Antiveduto" are mentioned (Papi, 1996, p. 141). Yet extant pictures with landscape settings are quite rare in Gram­matica's oeuvre. (see below) Whether Gram­matica painted the landscape back­ground in the present picture himself, as it seems likely, or whether he used the help of another painter, must be left open.


The third moment of the episode is the one, when the bull with Europa riding on its back is no longer resting on the ground, but has taken off in a violent movement into the sea, much to the horror and bewilderment of Europa's female attendants, which are still locally near to her. An example of this phase is the picture of vertical format, on panel, by the Cavalier d' Arpino in the Galleria Borghese, painted according to Röttgen ca. 1603/06. The bull is not really white, as described by Ovid, but brownish and in the shade, the scene moves from the right toward the left. The landscape background is stylisti­cally extremely close to Paul Bril, as Röttgen has remarked (H. Röttgen, Giuseppe Cesari, Rome 2002, p. 365, number 117 and plate 62. 58 x 45 cm).

Of interest is the presence of the eagle, symbol of Jupiter, who throws fire and lightening, and on whom an Amor rides and shoots its arrows to the couple below. In this case the eagle, part of the coat of arms of the Borghese family, seems to point to the probable fact, that the picture was painted for the Borghese (Cardinal Scipione or Pope Paul V, thus after 1605). A similar configuration of an eagle with an Amor flying in the air appears in our painting by Antiveduto. These are, as far as I can see, the only two pictures of the "Rape of Europa­" in which a flying eagle is depicted.


A second example of this third phase is Francesco Albani's painting in the Patrizi collection in Rome of c. 1612-14, in which the figures are much smaller and the landscape plays are more dominant part. (See C. Puglisi, Francesco Albani, New Haven and London, 1999, p.114 - 115, number 44).


A further, fourth moment of the episode is finally the one, in which Europa, riding on the bull, is on the high sea, either alone or with her maids in the far distance. Examples of the second kind is a picture by Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri in a private collection in Rome (see M. Cellini, Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri da Fossombrone, Fano/Bologna 1997, pp. 80 - 83, num. 27 with color plate) and Guido Reni's late painting formerly in the collection of Sir Denis Mahon (painted for Wladislaw IV King of Poland). Another version, painted for the Marqués de Leganés, Spanish Viceroy of Milan, of 1636-37, is in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. (See Gabriele Finaldi, discovering the Italian Baroque The Denis Mahon Collection, London 1997,p.136-37, number 63). The Mahon version shows the Amor flying and shooting an arrow. In Annibale Carracci' s fresco in the Galleria Farnese (1598- 1600), a chiaro­scuro tondo, Europa, riding on the bull on the sea, is depicted isolated, without indication of the presence of maids.


A late, yet surprisingly close echo of Antiveduto' s picture, really a direct paraphrase, is Carlo Maratti's huge painting in Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland (238 x 424 can), which according to Stella Rudolph (Antichi­tà Viva 1979) is the paint­ing, which Bellori says Reni painted for Cardinal Paolo Savelli (died 1685), a friend of the painter, as a pendant to a "Bacchus and Ariadn­e". (see Steffi Roettgen, in: Guido Reni und Europa, Frankfurt 1988,p.30­0, D 28). The general arrangement of the composition and its landscape back­ground is strikingly similar, with the shaded tall tree on the extreme left and the three maids in front of it: the standing maid seen in profile, her left hand raised, the kneeling maid with her naked shoulder and the one to her right, with her right hand resting on her right knee and holding a garland of flowers and her left hand pointing to Europa. The pose of the bull and of the lower part of Europa riding on it and the motif of stepping with her right foot on the bull' s tail, are identical. They cannot be accidental, but leave, in my mind, not the slightest doubt, that Maratti was inspired by Antiveduto' s painting, which must have had a certain prominence. (see below) Paolo Savelli- Peretti was the son of Maria Felice Peretti, sister of the Abbate, later Cardinal Francesco Peretti Montalto. He was the univer­sal heir of the belongings of the Peretti- Montal­to family, which had died out with the death of Cardinal Francesco Peretti in 1655. It is therefore more than likely that the present picture is to be identified with a painting of the " Europa" by Antiveduto Grammatica, which is describ­ed by Fioravante Martinelli in 1660/63 in the Casino Felice of the Villa Montalto on the Esquilin, together with a pendant of "Ercole che fila". Belinda Granata (Le passioni virtuose Collezion­ismo e committenze artistiche a Roma del cardinale Alessandro Pretti Montalto (1571 - 1623) 2012,p. 191) has published a payment of 50 scudi on behalf of Cardinal Montalto to Grammatica for a picture on November 21 1610 and a payment of 8 scudi for the gilding of the frames for the two paintings of "Europa" und "Ercole" on march 11 1611. We may therefore have to date the present picture, if it is identical with the Montalto paint­ing, to 1610/11. This may be startling when we consider the vague relative chronology heretofo­re suggested by Papi and Riedl. One thing can be ruled out: the two paintings of Europa and Hercules by Gram­matica, listed in the collection of Paolo Mercati in the inven­tories of 1622 and 1628, cannot be identical with the Montalto pictures, as Papi (1996,p. 141) had conjected. (see Lothar Sickel, zwei römische Privatsammler des frühen Seicento  Ippolito Gricciotto, Paolo Mercati und die Nachfolger Carava­ggios, in: Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwis­senschaft, vol. 33, Marburg 2006,p­.214, 21­5) These pic­tures were probably replicas or variants of the two Montalto paintings. It cannot be ruled out that the present paint­ing may be the Mercati painting.  Modern scholarship has tended to date most of Antivedu­to's paint­ings (a part from an early altar­piece in S. Stanislao dei Polacchi (1594 - 1600) and an altarpiece in Viterbo, Museo Civico, from the Convento of the Augustinian nuns (1594 - 1600)) within the last 16 years of his life. No paintings are listed by Riedl (Helmut Philipp Riedl, Antiveduto della Grammatica (1570/71 - 1626) Leben und Werk, Monaco di Baviera, 1998) that he would date between 1600 and 1610. there is a gap of ten years. We have to keep in mind that in 1611 An­tiveduto was already forty years old, quite and advanced age for a painter.  We come back to that later.


The majority of Grammatica' s extant paintings (all oil on canvas, no fres­coes) represents - apart from the few altarpieces and some other pictures, which depict figures in full length - "quadri da stanza" and devotial pic­tures, depicting single figures of the Virgin, female Saints, heroines of the Old Testament, allegorical figures (mostly female), couples of figures and various scenes, all of them life-size, represented as half length figures in the Caravaggesque tradition, in a style of a tempered caravaggism " a passo ridotto" (Roberto Longhi).


However, there is a small group of pictures, of smaller size, all of horizon­tal format, mostly ca. 75 cm in height, which represent Old Testament or mytholog­ical scenes in a landscape setting, in which the full- length figures are about 40 cm high, thus much smaller than lifesize, but larger than "ma­cchiette", staffage figures. All of the extant pictures of this group consist only of female figures, according to a predilection of Antiveduto Grammatica, as docu­mented in a letter of bishop Agnelli to the Duke Ferdinando Gonzaga in Mantova dated 19 January 1619: "L' Antiveduto pittore et il Cav. Baglione stanno aspettando i soggetti dell' A.V. per l' istorie di Sansone: et l' Antiveduto desiderare­bbe v' intravenissino molte donne." cf. A. Luzio, La Galleria dei Gonzaga venduta all' Inghilterra nel 1627-28, Milan 1913, p. 292; cited also by Papi and Riedl).


To this group belongs the "Finding of Moses" (73 x 124 cm), formerly in a 1984 sale of Salamon, Agustoni and Algranti, Milan and now, according to Granata­ (2­012,fig. 52) in the Indiana University Museum of Art at Bloomington, In­diana. This picture had belonged to the before mentioned Cardinal Andrea Baroni Peretti (died 1629). He left his collection to the Abbate, later Cardinal Francesco Peretti Montalto. The fact that it is listed in the 1631 post mortem (1629) inventory, as stated by Granata (but in the inventory published by Carlotta Nelli only a picture of that subject without the name of the artist is listed; see Carlotta Nelli, il gusto artistico di un cardinale sconosciuto L' inventario dei dipinti del cardinale Andrea Peretti, in: Biblioteca e Società Annali dell' Università della Tuscia 25 2006,3, p. 5 - 13) does not necessarily mean that Andrea Baroni Peretti commissioned the picture, whereas we know by documents and early sources that the great car­dinal Alessandro Peretti Montalto (died 1623) commissioned several works from An­tiveduto Grammatica in 1610 and 1614/15. Martinelli (1660/63) lists quite a number of them. It is quite possible that in his will, which has not been found, Cardinal Alessandro left the picture to Cardinal Andrea.


In 1994 Riedl published another version, of the same height, but considerably shorter, in a private collection in Turin, which he and I main­tain is a second original, whereas Papi considers it a studio version. Its size 72,5 x 87,5 cm is almost identical to that of the present picture. The Bloomington picture (or the Turin version) was mentioned by Martinelli in 1660/63. Papi placed it in the "piena maturità", Riedl dated it later, ca. 1620 - 25.


The third picture of this type and group is of a similar size (78,7 x 108 cm) and depicts an Old Testament subject, which was depicted relatively rarely (one example is Cosimo Rosselli's fresco in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican):"Mirjam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand: and all the (Israelite) women went out after her with timbrels and with dances" (Exodus, 15,20), after "the horse  of Pharaoh had gone with his chariot and with his horsemen into the sea and the Lord brought again the water of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went out on dry land in the midst of the sea". (Exodus, 15, 19).


The scene develops and moves from left to right and it has in common with the Rape of Europa the rather high horizon of the sea.  The picture was sold at Sotheby, New York, 14.1.1994, as Bolognese School, but was recognized as Grammatica by various scholars. Riedl (Weltkunst 1994) published it, but was unsure whether it was by Antiveduto or by Imperiale Grammatica. The same year the Compagnia di Belle Arti in Milan, who had bought it, published it after cleaning as a late work by Antiveduto (ca. 1621- 24). In 1998 Riedl reproduced it as Imperiale, but the authors of the Compagnia di Belle Arti catalogue and Papi (1996) are in my opinion right giving it to Antiveduto. Riedl had connected the picture with one of two pictures described as being in the Borghese collection (Manilli 1650 and Montelatici 1700), where a picture of this subject by Grammatica is described together with a "Hercole che rompe le corna al Toro" (i.e. the Cretan bull). This second picture is lost. Elena Fumagalli had informed Papi (before 1991) about a payment in the Libri Mastri of the Borghese family (Car­dinal Scipione) of 50 scudi, on march 3 1612, to Antiveduto Grammatica, for two pictures without indication of the subject. Papi (1991, 1996, p. 119) believed that this payment was too early to be connected with the present picture of the Compagnia di Belle Arti, but in the light of the payment of 50 scudi in 1610 made by Cardinal Alessandro Montalto for a "Europa" published by Granata in 2012, one should reconsider the matter. The subject of Mirjam playing the timbrel and dancing is too rare to resist the temptation to connect the 1612 payment with the Compagnia picture.


As far as the facial features, the drapery style and the color scheme with saturated, warm tones such as rust-red are concerned, the "Mirjam" picture is extremely close to our "Rape of Europa". The fifth female figure from the left in the Mirjam picture has the same face as one of attendants in the "Rape of Europa". The face of the woman with the blond, coiffed hair playing the triangle in the Mirjam picture can be compared to the face of Europa. Also the altarpiece in Todi can be compared, as far as the facial type of the Virgin, the drapery style and the color scheme are concerned. Riedl dates that picture ca. 1616-19, but this dating is based on style alone. The altarpiece in Lucca, which he had dated first to 1618/20, he later had to date to ca. 1613/14.


The "Mirjam" and the "Rape of Europa" can hardly be described as Caravag­gesque. Only the chiaroscuro modelling in the Mirjam picture is vaguely caravag­gesque in a very general way, though it is very soft and sweet. The frieze-like composition with its juxtaposition of full- length, yet small, statuary figures has certainly nothing to do with Caravag­gism, but remind us in disposition (not in style) of Domeni­chino's "Timoclea before Alexander"(Pa­ris, Louvre), the famous oval painted in 1615 for Cardinal Alessandro Montal­to. First intended for the Casina Montalto in Bagnaia, but later installed in the Palazzo a Termini in the Villa Montalto on the Esquilin in Rome, it is part of a series of eleven (at first ten) pictures on panel by various artists all depicting various episodes of the life of Alexander the Great, thus alluding to the fame of the patron, Ales­sandro Montalto. Grammatica himself contributed two, which have not yet reemerged, but the composition of one them, depicting the "family of Darius before Alexander", is known from an old copy, published by Volpe in 1977. It is true that it has more elongated figures, than the pictures we discussed before.


The other artists involved were Domenichino (one picture, for which he was paid 7O scudi), Lanfranco (two pictures, one of which is on canvas), Albani (one picture), Antonio Carracci (one picture), Badalocchio (one picture) - all of them pupils of the late Annibale Carracci and all of them active and available in Rome in 1614-15, furthermore Giovanni Baglione (one picture) and Antonio Tempesta (two pictures, both lost). Some painters were more prominent than others; Domenichino in 1615 was more famous than Lanfranco, Antonio Carracci and Badalocchio.

Not only Domenichino' s "Timoclea", but also Badalocchio's recently redis­covered "Alexander and Taxiles" show the same frieze-like composition as Grammatica's "Mirjam" and all pictures of the series are characterized by a fragile equi­librium and balance between figures and landscape background: in a more dynamic and prebaroque way in the two pictures by Lanfranco, in a more clas­sicizing manner in the pictures by Albani, Antonio Carracci, Badalocchio and Domenichino. Only Baglione' s composition does not follow the same scheme. The frames for ten pictures were paid for in 1615.  In 1615 Grammatica was thus in a prestigious company of five Emilian artists, pupils of Annibale Carracci and of one other paracaravaggesque painter (Bagli­one).


The only signed and dated (!!) picture by Antiveduto Grammatica is the three-­quarter-length "St. Cecilia" in Salinas, Spain, private collection, in Riedl's chronology the first picture after a gap of at least ten years (1600 - 1610).  No color reproduction is available. The picture seems at first sight more austere, but to us it does not seem incompatible with the pictures here proposed as of 1610 (Europa), 1612 (Mirjam) and 1615 (the family of Darius before Alexander).


How debated and insecure the dating of works by Antiveduto is, shows the "resting Venus with putti", formerly with Canessa and then with Gasparrini in Rome (1988). Riled (1998), followed by Granata (2012), dates it 1610-13, Papi dated it in the Twenties.  It is probably identical with a picture by An­tiveduto Grammatica listed in the post mortem inventory of Cardinal Andrea Baroni Peretti of 1629/31 and then described by F. Martinelli in 1660/63 in the Villa Montalto. Another version was listed in the inventory of Alessandro Ruffinelli of 1647. Both versions were 3 palmi wide. This confirms that Grammatica did infact repeat his compositions in other versions. (For other examples of versions and replicas see G. Papi, Aggiornamenti per Antiveduto Grammatica, in: Arte Cristiana XCI 815 2003, pp. 117 - 130).


If we consider that Domenichino received 70 scudi for his "Timoclea" (panel, 114 x 153 cm) with twelve figures, then 50 scudi for the "Rape of Europa" by Antiveduto paid for in 1610 seems proportionally right, if we identify it with the here presented smaller picture on canvas with only seven figures (73 x 84 cm). However, in 1612 Antiveduto received only 50 scudi for two pictures from Cardinal Scipione Borghese.


If the identification of the present picture with the Montalto painting paid for in 161O is correct, then that picture is probably indeed the painting which Marzio Milesi praised in the following poem, contained in a manuscript datable to 1610-11 ca. (published by Giorgio Fulco in 1980 (Ricerche di Storia dell' Arte, p.87) and reprinted by Papa (1996.p. 141) and Riedl):


Per la favola di Europa dipinta da Antiveduto


Da Giove fu la bella Europa tolta,

di donzelle purissime dal coro,

secon portando (a l' hor che fatto toro)

del mar per vie, su'l bianco dorso accolta.

Nave non fu da terra unqua disciolta,

nè calcò l' onde mai sì bel thesoro

di ricche merci adorno, o di fin oro,

come nel molle sen questa raccolta.

Ma chi l' humana vista induce attenta,

e a rimirar vere sembianze accende,

che che vede divien stupido e muto ?

E chio con alta idea ciò n' appresenta

ch' a nobil arte anticho pregio rende ?

Questi è vago pittor, anzi aveduto."


If however one wants to hypothetically connect our picture with the "Europa" listed in the inventories of Paolo Mercati of 1622 and 1628, it could be theoretical­ly be a few years later than 1610/11, but it still would repeat the Montalto composition of 1610, because the connection between the Maratti picture painted for Paolo Savelli Peretti and our picture is indisputable.