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Jupiter and Europa

1770-1771 (probably)
Origin: England
Unframed: 45 x 34 1/8in. (114.3 x 86.7cm) and Framed: 52 1/4 x 39 1/4 x 2 1/2in.
Oil on canvas
Partial Gift, William H. Cameron and Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1992-45,A
A mythological subject showing a blonde, brown-eyed woman in an empire-waisted, short-sleeved dress with a salmon-colored cape billowing behind her, the cape color appearing light in some areas and dark in others and having a distinctive yellow-colored portion that is buttoned over her proper left upper arm. A lavender-colored belt is tied in a bow below the woman's breasts. A length of figured green ribbon adorns the neckline of the dress and is secured front and center by a jeweled brooch. The woman gazes skyward. Her hair is partly loose, partly braided. Her proper left hand grasps folds of her dress. Her proper right arm encircles the neck of a white bull having a floral wreath around his neck and a floral swag (or another part of the wreath) over the top of his head. A flat, blue horizon line at far (viewer's) right suggests the sea, while green and white froth beneath the bull shows that the animal has already plunged chest-deep into it. The blue sky is interspersed with clouds.
The frame currently (2008) on the picture dates to the same approximate period as the painting but is not original to it. The frame is accessioned and described separately as 1974-115, which acc. no. see. The frame that was received on the picture in 1973 was determined to be a later replacement. It was removed and stored separately, as 1992-45,B, which acc. no. see.
Label:The painting illustrates an ancient myth in which Jupiter, king of the gods, fell in love with, deceived, and abducted Europa, a Phoenician noblewoman. Jupiter allayed Europa's fears by assuming the form of a tame bull, enticing her to approach and pet him. Eventually she climbed onto his back, whereupon he charged into the sea and, still bearing her, swam off to the island of Crete. Titian interpreted the subject to much acclaim in the Italian Renaissance, and several notable later painters followed suit, including his compatriot, Guido Reni, whose composition was the prototype for Matthew Pratt's copy shown here.

Pratt's struggle to establish himself as a painter in his native Philadelphia was boosted by trips to England in 1764 and 1770. Probably it was during the latter stay that he created his Jupiter and Europa, basing his copy on a version of the Reni original that had been brought to England by collector Robert Fullarton Udny (1722-1802).

Back in America, Pratt's painting was among those he exhibited in Williamsburg at Mrs. Vobe's Tavern (now, the Kings Arms), as verified by a lengthy notice that appeared in the Virginia Gazette March 4, 1773. The wording of the notice reveals a great deal about period taste and patronage. Because original masterworks were scarce and too expensive for most collectors (certainly in America but also, to a lesser extent, in England), copyists often strove to fill the gap. Pratt seems to have had limited success in placing his copies, however. Neither his Jupiter and Europa nor his St. Jerome after Corregio sold in Williamsburg and, indeed, remained in the artist's estate at the time of his death.

Provenance:Information from a wide variety of file sources differs in relatively minor details but effectively documents a line of descent from the artist to William H. Cameron, III, who was CWF's source. One plausible line: From the artist to his daughter, Mrs. William Fennell (Mary Pratt)(1771-1849); to her daughters, they being Maria Fennell (ca. 1800-1880, d. unmarried), Mrs. Arundius Tiers II (Anna Matilda Fennell, ca. 1809-1854), and Susan Fennell (?-?, d. unmarried); to Anna Matilda Fennell Tiers's daughter, Mrs. Charles P. Jackson (Rosalie Vallance Tiers)(1849-1944); to her brother, LaRue Tiers (1846-1931); to his daughter, Mrs. William H. Cameron, Sr. (Susan Vallance Tiers)(1880-1968); to her son, William H. Cameron, Jr. (1906-1971); to his widow, Mrs. William H. Cameron, Jr. (Marianne Chase)(1908-1973); to her son, William H. Cameron III, who was CWF's source.