The Rape of Europa

Reference URL

The Rape of Europa about 1747
Following the Paris Salon of 1746, several critics voiced their concern at what they perceived as a decline in the quality of painting. To encourage native artists to renew their approach to history painting, a competition was proposed with the hope that a revival of the French School would follow. This sketch was Boucher’s initial compositional idea (‘première pensée’) for a painting of the Rape of Europa, which he submitted to the 1747 competition. Examples of Boucher’s premières pensées are rare as he often discarded them once the paintings were complete. The drawing demonstrates some initial thoughts that were omitted from the final picture, such as the bull gazing longingly at Europa. Boucher did not win the competition, and was heavily criticised for his unoriginal choice of subject.

Glossary Open


The arrangement of different elements in a work of art.

History painting

Paintings in which the subject is taken from biblical, classical or other mythological histories.

Paris Salon

The Paris Salon was the official exhibiting space of the French Academy. Established in 1673 it moved to the Salon d'Apollon at the Louvre in 1725, when it became known as the ‘Salon de Paris’. In 1737 the annual exhibitions were made public and artists were invited to submit their work before a jury. Exhibiting at the Salon and receiving official recognition were vital for an artist's career. In the late 19th century artists became disillusioned with the jury system and its influence declined as a number of independent exhibiting societies were established. The government withdraw its official support in 1881.

Composition, History painting, Paris Salon


  • Acc. No. D 5351
  • Medium Red chalk on paper
  • Size 28.40 x 44.10 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1992