author image

Analysis of the Symbols in the Work of MOSES, MICHELANGELO

Haleh Talaei

Iran, 2010

In various analyzes carried out on this work, most critics and analysts believe that Michelangelo shows Moses coming down from the mountain forty days later, holding the Holy Tablets, and suddenly encountering the Jewish people who are worshiping a golden calf. The revelation of the spiritual and earthly aspects of this prophet is also the subject of much debate. The presence of Laban sisters on both sides of the statue of Moses also indicates the same spiritual and mundane dimensions in the work.

Influenced by Renaissance idealism and humanism, Michel Angelo made the sculptures completely idealistic and paid more attention to humanistic features. In individual art, he sought to express everything in general through the image of human. He always tried to express and convey the deepest truths and concepts by creating the image of man, especially naked man.

Although he was an architect, a sculptor, a painter, a poet and an engineer, he considered himself primarily a sculptor and considered this title to be superior to painter, because sculptor has something like divine power of human creation. Therefore, he used sculpture to express his art.

Michelangelo was a follower of true Platonists, believing that the image created by the artist necessarily came from the sample (idea) in his mind. A sample is a reality that must be embodied with the help of the artist` genius, and the artist reflects the absolute sample, which is the same as beauty in his view. Thus the highly platonic eloquence turns the theory of imitation of nature into a revelation of the transcendent truths hidden in nature, a theory that guided Michelangelo. He believed that the artist should begin his work by discovering a sample or a face trapped in a stone. By removing the extra stones, either frees this sample or trapped face or enlivens the lifeless body like a Pygmalion. He believed that nothing worthy of maintenance could be done without genius and careful study. Therefore, he made his works, including the sculpture of Moses, in great details to make a greater impact on the audience.

Unlike Da Vinci or Alberti and those who wanted to achieve beauty and proportion through mathematics, Michelangelo believed that “proportion must be kept in the eye.”
“It is necessary to keep ones compass in ones eyes and not in the hand, for the hands execute, but the eye judges.” Wazari quoted Michelangelo.

The sculpture of Moses is a compendium of the whole historic building which was designed, although never fully executed, as the tomb of Julius II. This statue is one of the six great characters that were intended for the crown of the tomb. Moses is also a depiction of Michelangelo’s own aspirations, a character who, according to De Tolnay, was “trembling with rage, mastering over the outburst of his rage.” The statue of Moses, designed for the second row of the tomb, was to be seen from below, not on the surface of the eye, as it is shown today.

This statue was erected for the tomb of Pope Julius II. In the first design of this sculptor, which was done in 1505, an independent, two-story structure with about 28 sculptures was envisaged.

But shortly after construction began, Pope prevented the continuation of the work, and finally in 1513, after Michelangelo reduced the size of the project, construction resumed.

Many scholars who have analyzed the statue of Moses, including Sigmund Freud, Hermann Grimm, and Henry Todd, believe that the statue recounts a special moment and, of course, the most important moment in the life of the prophet Moses. Moses came down from Mount Sinai after forty days and brought inscriptions containing the Ten Commandments to guide his people, but he sees the Jewish people worshiping a golden calf, made by Samiri in the absence of their prophet and forgetting to worship the God, in spite of all the mercy that God, the Merciful, had given them and freed them from Pharaoh’s slavery and crossed them through the sea. The statue represents the moment of calm before the storm. In the next moment, it is as if the Prophet of God is so angry that he wants to get up, throw the inscriptions on the ground and punish the unbelievers for their deeds. The left foot is pressed to the ground and half-raised, which reinforces the moment of roar. The moment of Michelangelo’s incarnation is the moment of Moses` doubt. According to the symbolism of the sacred, the left represents worldly affairs, mundane deeds, sexual and physical pleasures, and emotions. Conversely, the right represents the hereafter and heavenly affairs, spiritual pleasures, and thoughts. According to this explanation in the statue itself, the left represents the material aspect and the right represents the spiritual dimension of Prophet Moses. This left and right symbolism is also carefully observed in the statue of Moses itself. On the right side of the statue, the holy tablets are held in hand, and on the left, the Moses’ bare arm, is a symbol of the mundane world. The left foot is inclined backwards and the right foot is inclined forward, meaning that the heavenly aspect of the Prophet has overcome his mundane aspect.

In this case, Michelangelo, as he did in the statue of the head of David, used the method of turning the head to focus on expressing the horrible anger in the large ossification and the state of Mosses eyes.

We can perceive the submerged energy of this shape. The entire shape is full of thought and energy. It is not completely clear what moment of the story Michelangelo shows us. Moses is sitting under his right arm with the Ten Commandments Tablets. Does he get furious after seeing the Israelis worshiping the golden calf? Moses is not merely sitting. His left leg is dragged to the back of the chair, as if he is about to stand up; and because this leg is pulled back, his buttocks are also to the left. Michelangelo pulls the trunk in the opposite direction to create a fascinating and energetic shape - where life force is pulsating throughout the body. Thus, his torso goes to his right. Since the trunk is to the right, Moses turns his head to the left and then pulls his beard to the right. Michelangelo managed to create a strong and energetic figure in spite of Moses sitting down. While the marble itself is fixed, his beard appears to be moving and flowing, and his muscular arms and upper body seem to be in motion

The shape of the statue's legs induces a sense of forward movement caused by suppressed anger. The prominent muscles, the bulge veins, and the large legs seem to be moving in a moment. The holy wrath of Moses reaches the point of explosion but must be curbed.

The horns on Moses’ head were a symbol of a covenant in Christian art, which helps the Renaissance viewers to identify the Prophet. These horns are a symbol taken from the book of Exodus in ancient Latin. The horns belong to Dhu al-Qarnayn. These two horns also represent the power of God. Dhu al-Qarnayn, the two-horn goddess, was originally a symbol of the gods of ancient Egypt from the fourth millennium BC. Dhu al-Qarnayn is generally a symbol of divine power. The tradition of the horned goddess has also been preserved in Judaism, and according to tradition, Moses was shown as a horned.

It seems that the resemblance of Moses to Dhu al-Qarnayn showed his divine power.

Michelangelo's approach in this work is a classical one and his emphasis on harmony and ideal human characteristics is irrefutable. Moreover, his work has an Apollonian spirit and suggests a kind of proverbial reason rather than mere emotion. His style, which was based on seeing rather than mathematical measurements, has added to the sensory features of the work.

According to historians' claim, from the Hellenistic period onward, no sculptor has caught so much emotional or physical energy in a sitting statue, as Michelangelo did in a bigger-than-normal sculpture of Moses for the tomb of Julius II.

- Lents, Rosa Maria, History of Art, Translator Ali Afshar, Center, Tehran
- Freud, Sigmund, Musa Michelangelo and Seven Other Speeches in Psychoanalysis, Translator Mahmoud Behforozi, Jami Publishing, Tehran
- Barbara, Somerville, Michelangelo, Translator Shiva Moghanloo
- Roman Roland, The Life of Michelangelo, Translator Ismail Saadat, Scientific and Cultural Publish, Tehran

فروش اینترنتی آثار هنری، صنایع دستی‌ و کتاب