128. The Rape of Europa

A Hellenistic Cosmetic Dish
Greek Bactria, 2nd–1st century BC
Size: 11.5 cm diameter
Yellow chlorite

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The remarkable feature of this finely carved dish is that it shows Zeus transforming into a bull to carry off Europa, but not fully transformed. He still retains his god-like head, albeit already crowned with the horns and ears of a bull. This is most unusual; the bull is represented fully transformed on other examples.

Two details are typical of the oriental sphere in which this Hellenistic carving was made. One is the bull’s hump, which belongs to the oriental zebu. The second is the glorious sensuality of Europa’s buttocks curving from her narrow waist, while she appears to be enjoying the ride. Her feet dangle prettily beneath the bull’s flanks.