Carved Cameo Shell
The princess of Europa is seated on the back of a beautiful white bull with her playmates nearby, tending to her and handing her garlands of flowers and fruit. Cherubs over the crowd holding a wreath. Some trees in the backdrop.
• Italian; Early 19th Century
With Frame : Height: 7 in. (17.8 cm)
Width: 7.5 in. (19.1 cm)
Europa was the beautiful daughter of the king of Tyre, Agenor. Zeus (Jupiter), the King of the gods according to Greek mythology, saw Europa as she was gathering flowers by the sea and immediately fell in love with her. Zeus transformed himself into the form of a magnificent white bull and appeared in the sea shore where Europa was playing. The great bull walked gently over to where Europa stood and knelt at her feet. The appearance and movements of the bull were so gentle that Europa spread flowers about his neck and dared to climb upon his back. But suddenly, the bull rushed over the sea abducting Europa. Only then the bull revealed its true identity and took Europa to the Mediterranean island of Crete. There, Zeus cast off the shape of the white bull, and back into his human form, made Europa his lover beneath a simple cypress tree. Europa became the first queen of Crete and had by Zeus three sons. At last, Zeus reproduced the shape of the white bull, used by Zeus to seduce Europa, in the stars. Even today we can recognize its shape in the constellation Taurus.