Sun 24 Mar 2013
For my festive posting on Passover I looked this year at some of the representations of Moses, the great superstar of the event celebrated by the holiday in arts and music.
As with many other Bible subjects the representation of Moses is very popular in the manuscripts that predate the invention of printing. Above you can see ‘Moses and the Ark of the Covenant’ represented in tempera colors and silver paint on parchment in an illuminated German manuscript about 1400 – 1410.
The most famous representation of Moses is probably Michelangelo’s statue on the tomb of pope Julius II the Church of Saint Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) in Rome.
Raffaello Santi (1483-1520) was Michelangelo Buonarroti’s contemporary and rival. His elegant version of Moses Saved from the Water can be admired in the galleries of Palazzi Pontifici in Vatican.
One of the Baroque painters I like a lot is Guido Reni (1575-1642), a sophisticated follower of Caravaggio. His Moses with the Tables of the Law can be admired at Villa Borghese.
Another famous representation is of Moses Smashing the Tables of the Law by Rembrandt, which can be admired in Berlin, at the Gemäldegalerie.
Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) – the Morning after the Deluge – Moses Writing the Book of Genesis is one of the interesting experimental pieces of work of Joseph Mallord William Turner (c.1775–1851). First exposed in 1843,the painting depicts a deluge scene where the natural effects of light and weather (the atmosphere) help Turner not only create almost abstract effects, but also put in colors some of the Goethe’s theory of light and darkness. Moses is only ideally present in the title of the work, as homage to the writer of the Book of Genesis, where the deluge is described.
What about this sensual version of ‘The Finding of Moses’ signed by Frederick Goodall (1822-1904)? Goodall was an Orientalist who actually traveled to Egypt by the time of the construction of the Suez Canal, when the fascinating country came back to the attention of the Europeans.
Switching to music, here is a fragment from the intense oratorio Moses by Max Bruch, interpreted by the Russian Chamber Philharmonic of St. Petersburg conducted by Jürgen Budday. This is a concert recording from the Maulbronn Monastery, of the performances on June 19th & 20th 2004.
A real gem is the traditional spiritual sang by The Carter Family in 1930 The Rock Where Moses Stood.
A fine way to end is the gospel ‘Go Down Moses’ in one of the most famous versions with the line Let My People Go sung by Louis Armstrong.
Hag Sameah! A Happy Passover!