A scale white statuary marble sculpture of Moses after Michelangelo circa 1875. After the larger than life-size Carrara marble original from the tomb of Pope Julius II in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome completed around 1515. This scale sculpture is exceptionally carved, capturing the quality and detail of Michelangelo’s Moses in superb detail.
A Moses sculpture of similar scale and date to this one by 17th century American sculptor, Edmonia Lewis, resides in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Scale depictions of classical Italian statues like this were popular among American tourists.
An imposing figure, Michelangelo’s depiction of Moses is one of movement and intense energy. His glaring eyes appear to stare into the distance, while his veins seem to pulsate with blood. His right knee is raised and his profile is turned to the left as if he is about to stand.
In the biblical story, it is said that Moses travels to the top of Mt. Sinai having just delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. On his return, he finds the Israelites not praising God but worshipping a pagan idol. He is overcome with anger, hence his intensity, and throws the tablets detailing The Ten Commandments to the ground, breaking them. This is represented by the rectangular form under his right arm.
Unusually, Michelangelo’s Moses is sculpted with horns. This comes from a mistranslation of a Hebrew word that in the bible describes Moses as having beams of light coming from his head!