Botticelli ca. 1445 – 1510

The Punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram

fresco (348 × 570 cm) — 1482 Museum Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Botticelli biography

This work is linked to Numbers 16:31

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During their journey through the desert Korah, Dathan and Abiram revolt against Moses's leadership. God punishes the lot - the ringleaders plus 250 followers - by having the earth swallow them whole.

There are three scenes in this fresco, all of them with Moses in the foreground. On the right, Joshua stops rebels ready to stone Moses. In the center, Aaron (with miter) is attacked by people who dispute his priesthood. On the left, Moses calls on God to punish the rebels.

The arch in the back is the Arch of Constantine, built near the Coliseum in Rome. Constantine was the first christian Roman emperor. According to a medieval document (that later was prove to be false) he gave worldly power to the popes. Pope Sixtus obviously wanted to mention that in his chapel.

The arch is also shown in the fresco on the opposing wall: The handing of the keys to Peter.

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