Is this Milles Most Loving Sculpture?

Carl Milles never tired of the mythical characters of Antiquity. To him, these old stories were captivating, and sincere, and he carried these qualities over to his sculptures. Biblical stories, folk tales, and, primarily, characters from the Olympic Pantheon provided a never-ending source of motifs for Milles to draw from.


The fixed roles, the men, the women, and the animals, all served as units for him to play and experiment with in anatomical distortions, plastic compositions, contrasts struck between bulkiness and slenderness, and, of course, the brilliant creation of a convincing whole that can be viewed from a full 360 degrees, without compromising in terms of clarity or experience. Milles was at the peak of his career at this point, and it’s really no surprise that the municipality of Halmstad turned to him after losing their patience with the submissions they received for the sculpture contest they had announced. None of the proposed ideas were good enough. His sketch of a fountain featuring Europe and the Bull was immediately accepted, and there it remains to this day, surrounded by small male tritons holding plump seashells in their hands.

Europe and the Bull might actually be one of the most loving couples Milles ever sculpted. Anyone familiar with Greek Mythology knows that the events that unfolded when princess Europe caught the eye of the great god Zeus were rather unsavoury, to say the least.

He used his powers to turn himself into a seemingly docile and friendly bovine. When the princess came close enough, he abducted her and rushed across the continent (which was subsequently named after her) so that he would be able to have his way with her in privacy. Milles’s version of the story seems to have a different ending. Despite the lightness of her body, which is almost floating in mid-air, the bull seems to be buckling under her weight. For all of his swelling muscles, he is almost puppy-like, even licking Europe’s fingertips. There is no doubt who’s in charge here, and their jubilant ride radiates trust and consent. The sculpture also displays an ingenious, unusual solution, as it is simultaneously three- and two-dimensional. Everything, from the tip of the tongue to the rippling cloak and the amorously curved tail, is arranged along a single line.


Carl Milles  was born outside Uppsala in 1875. In 1897 he made what he thought would be a temporary stop in Paris on his way to Chile, where he was due to manage a school of gymnastics. However, he remained in Paris, where he studied art, working in Auguste Rodin's studio and slowly gaining recognition as a sculptor. In 1904 he and Olga moved to Munich. Two years later they settled in Sweden, buying property on Herserud Cliff on Lidingö. In 1931, American publisher George Gough Booth brought Milles to Cranbrook Educational Community, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, to serve as his sculptor in residence. Part of Booth's arrangement with his principal artists was that they were expected to create major commissions outside the Cranbrook environment. In 1938, for the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Sweden, the country commissioned a sculpture by Milles featuring a replica of the Kalmar Nyckel, the ship which originally brought the Swedish colonists to America. The sculpture is located at Fort Christina in Wilmington, Delaware, near the landing site where the colonists arrived in 1638. In America he is best known for his fountains, for instance The Meeting of the Waters in Saint Louise.

Outside Detroit's Frank Murphy Hall of Justice is a Carl Milles statue, The Hand of God, which was sculpted in honor of Frank Murphy, Detroit Mayor, Michigan Governor, and United States Supreme Court Associate Justice. Milles and his wife returned to Sweden in 1951, and lived in Millesgården every summer until Milles's death in 1955.

Carl Milles
Europa and the Bull, 1924
Bronze, green patina
75 x 70 x 35 cm
Made for the town fountain of Halmstad
This particular piece has belonged to the Nobel family.

Europe and the Bull by Carl Milles is also to be found in Cranbrook Academy of Art, Detroit, USA. University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA.