Il primo ‘800 italiano.La pittura tra passato e futuro. (Milan, Palazzo Reale 20 February – 3 May 1992), p. 188.
We may consider Francesco Podesti's picture to be a scaled-down easel version – painted for a private patron – of one of the best-known subjects from the fresco cycle that he painted for the Gallery in the now demolished Palazzo Torlonia in Piazza Venezia in Rome.
The composition is based on a panel of the same subject which once adorned the vault of the so-called "Gallery of Hercules and Lichas", also known as the "Canova Wing" on the piano nobile, or first floor, of the palazzo leading to the highly scenographic exedra housing the colossal group by that sculptor.
The space was part museum and part reception hall, containing painted and stucco decoration to complement an impressive array of furniture and other accoutrements, and housing both original Classical sculptures and copies and casts of Classical statuary.
To decorate their palazzo the Torlonia family availed themselves of the services of some of the finest artists of the day, including Francesco Podesti who painted scenes based on the stories of the Olympian gods between 1835 and 1837, although only the preparatory cartoons for those scenes have survived (and are now housed in the Pinacoteca di Ancona).
The mythological subjects in the curve of the vault were frescoed in opposing pairs on either side of the skylight lighting the huge room. The subjects were: Jupiter and the Olympian Gods against the Titans and the Triumph of Neptune; Venus Bathing and the Judgment of Paris; the Rape of Proserpina and the Rape of Europa.
The frescoes not only helped to spread the artist's renown but must also have been known and appreciated further afield than Rome, or even Italy, if we consider that following this undertaking he received yet more commissions. Taking his inspiration from the Rape of Europa, Podesti painted the subject in cabinet format for the Marchesi Ala Ponzoni in Genoa and another replica for the English market in 1838, in addition to an oil on canvas painted for the Marchese Antonio Busca of Milan between 1836 and 1837.
The painting under discussion here transposes onto canvas one of the most celebrated episodes in the whole of Classical mythology.
Ovid tells us in his Metamorphoses (Bk. II 868-875) of how Jupiter, having fallen in love with the young princess Europa, devised a plan to abduct her. Calling Mercury to him and ordering him to send her father Agenor's oxen down to the beach where she often strolled with her companions, Jupiter turned himself into a white bull. Won over by the beast's beauty and placid nature, Europa ventured to sit on his back, but no sooner had she done so than the bull leapt up and began to rush towards the sea at breakneck speed, eventually carrying her to the island of Crete where she was to give birth to Minos, the product of their union.
The artist has chosen to capture the most important moment in the story, the moment in which Europa, seated astride the bull, is being carried off towards the sea, surrounded by cupids firing their darts.
 M. Polverari, Francesco Podesti, (Ancona, Mole Vanvitelliana 2 June – 1 September 1996), p.166.
 R. Leone, F. Pirani, Il museo di Roma racconta la città, Rome 2002, p. 314.