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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Trials of Moses” by Sandro Botticelli

"Adoration of the Magi" by Botticelli

“The Trials of Moses” by Sandro Botticelli

“The Trials of Moses” by Sandro Botticelli is a fresco, executed in 1481–1482 at the Sistine Chapel, Rome. The fresco shows four episodes from Moses’ life, taken from Exodus. Firstly, Moses is depicted on the right, killing the Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew and he is then shown fleeing to the desert. Moses is distinguishable in the scenes by his yellow dress and the green cloak.

In the next episode, Moses fights the shepherds who were preventing Jethro’s daughters, including his future wife, Zipporah from watering their herd at the well. In this episode, he is also shown taking water from the well to help water the flock.

In the third scene, in the upper left corner, Moses removes his shoes and he then receives from God the mission to return to Egypt, to free his people, the Hebrews. In the final episode in the lower left corner, Moses is shown leading the Jews to the Promised Land. In total Moses appears seven times in this fresco.

Sistine Chapel

Botticelli, together with other skilled Florentine painters, went to Rome in 1480, as part of the reconciliation initiative between Lorenzo de’ Medici, the de facto ruler of Florence, and Pope Sixtus IV. The Florentine painters were given the project to decorate with frescos the walls of the newly completed Sistine Chapel.

One of the themes of the frescos was a parallel between the Stories of Moses and those of Christ, as a sign of continuity between the Old and the New Testament. They also represented a continuity between the divine law of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai engraved in tablets of stone and the message of Jesus, who, in turn, chose Peter, the first bishop of Rome, as his successor.

Botticelli, helped by numerous assistants, painted several scenes which included this fresco of “The Trials of Moses”. It parallels the fresco on the opposite wall, also by Botticelli, which depicts the “Temptations of Jesus.”

Sandro Botticelli

Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance who belonged to the Florentine School under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici. His mythological masterpieces are his best-known works today. However, he painted a range of religious subjects and portraits. He and his workshop were primarily known for their many beautiful Madonna and Child paintings. He lived all his life in the same neighbourhood of Florence, and his only significant time elsewhere was the few months he spent painting in Pisa in 1474 and his work at the Sistine Chapel in Rome in 1481–82.

Reflections

  • What makes Botticelli paintings masterpieces?

Exploring Botticelli

The Trials of Moses

  • Title:                         The Trials of Moses or Youth of Moses
  • Artist:                       Sandro Botticelli
  • Year:                         1481–1482
  • Dimensions             348.5 cm × 558 cm (137.2 in × 220 in)
  • Museum:                 Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Rome

Sandro Botticelli

Explore the Vatican Museums

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“There are three classes of people:
Those who see.
Those who see when they are shown.
Those who do not see.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit: Sandro Botticelli [Public domain or Public domain]

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