The Flight of Europa

Paul Manship (American, 1885-1966)

Currently on View in K205.p4
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Manship achieves a witty interpretation of the classical myth of Europa, abducted by Zeus who transformed himself into a bull to carry her across the sea.

The rhythmic composition sets horizontal against vertical and speed versus stillness, as the bull's horns, tail and legs oppose Europa's upright stance.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Paul Manship energized the static, idealized forms of Greek and Roman antiquity with the controlled power and rhythms of the Machine Age. During Manship's studies at the American Academy in Rome, his intimate contact with Classical art profoundly affected his development, resulting in works such as this witty interpretation of the myth of Europa. Taking the form of a bull, the Greek god Zeus abducted the Asian maiden Europa and carried her over the sea, represented by the dolphins, to the island of Crete. The continent that was to be her new home was named for her forever after.

Never has there been a more poised victim than Manship's Europa, who appears utterly unperturbed by her abduction. She sits rigidly and cross-legged on the bull, riding backwards as she listens to the whispers of Eros. The rhythmic composition sets horizontal against vertical and speed versus stillness, with the bull's horns, tail, and legs opposing the force of Europa's upright posture. Manship was particularly interested in the surfaces of his sculptures: here, he rubbed the work to give it an antique finish. The agate base is an integral part of the composition. Its grain repeats the stylized treatment of Europa's hair and also creates the impression that the dolphins are swimming on water. Manship completed numerous public commissions, including the fire-carrying Prometheus in New York City's Rockefeller Center.

Pray tell my loving father that Europa has left her native land, seated upon a bull, my ravisher, my sailor, and, as I think, my bed-fellow.
-Nonnus, from Dionysiaca, 5th century

Curatorial Summary

Paul Manship was born in Minnesota and began studying art at the St. Paul School of Art. At nineteen he moved to Philadelphia to continue his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Manship then went to New York where he enrolled at the Art Students League and later served as an assistant to Solon Borglum, a sculptor of Western themes, from whom he gained knowledge of animal anatomy. Manship won the coveted Prix de Rome and a fellowship to study for three years at the American Academy in Rome. While there he developed an interest in classical and archaic Greek art. Upon his return to America, these combined influences resulted in a style that attracted both modernists and conservatives in its simplification of line and detail, making Manship a successful sculptor. While working in Paris he created a number of sculptures that embodied a stylized form that was uniquely his own. During his career, Manship produced over 700 works.

The muscular bull derives from ancient Minoan forms, while the maiden’s stylized hair and posture were inspired by archaic Greek models. The mythical Minos, for whom the Minoan civilization was named, was born to Zeus and the abducted Europa.


Rand, Harry. Paul Manship. Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, 1989.

Rather, Susan. Archaism, Modernism, and the Art of Paul Manship, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993.

Roberts, Kate. Minnesota 150: The People, Places, and Things that Shape Our State. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2007.

Object Information

Paul Manship (American, 1885-1966)
creation date
gilt bronze on agate base
25 x 30-1/2 x 8-1/4 in. (including base)
accession number
credit line
Gift of Lucy M. Taggart in memory of her brother, Thomas D. Taggart
© Paul Manship
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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