Artibus et Historiae no. 56 (XXVIII)

2007, ISSN 0391-9064

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ANETA GEORGIEVSKA-SHINE - Titian, Europa, and the Seal of the Poesie

Titian's Europa (1559—1562) is widely regarded as one of the pinnacles of his poesie, as well as one of the most striking examples of his pittura di macchia. This essay proposes that the special place of this painting may already be suggested in a letter of April 26, 1562, where Titian describes it as the "seal" (soggello) of all of the works he had created for Phillip II of Spain up to that point. This qualifier calls to mind the term "seal" (from the Greek sphragis) used for literary compositions that conclude a cycle with decidedly programmatic goals — to establish their authors' "signatures", affirm their inimitable styles, and express their hopes for the survival of their opus for posterity. Titian's choice of this term may also reflect the status of the myth of Europa among its classical literary authorities. As classicists have long recognized, the ekphrasis on Europa in Achiles Tatius's novel Leucippe and Clitophon announces the power of love as the leitmotif of this narrative. Similarly, in Book 2 of The Metamorphoses, the abduction of Europa provides a kind of conclusion (sphragis) on a series of amorous exploits of the gods. Last but not least, Ovid returns to this myth in Book 6 of his poem in order to restate one of the key ideas within The Metamorphoses — the contest between divine and human ingagno, as well as nature and art. Through a skillful collation of these, as well as other literary (and visual) sources, Titian invokes within his "inimitable" invention a number of these allegorical and art-theoretical facets of the myth of Europa, including its exemplary value as a love-narrative, as well as the idea of paragone between forms of artifice.

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