Botticelli ca. 1445 – 1510

Scenes from the Life of Moses

fresco (348 × 558 cm) — 1481-1482 Museum Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Botticelli biography

This work is linked to Exodus 2:17

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This is the second fresco on the southern wall of the Sistine Chapel. It is part of the series on the life of Moses. This fresco shows a number of events that preluded the journey from Egypt.

In the bottom right Moses kills an Egyptian who had attacked a Hebrew (Exodus 2:11-12).

When Pharaoh heard of the murder Moses fled into the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15).

There he drove away a group of shepherds who harassed the daughters of the local priest, Jethro. Moses helped them to water their flock (Exodus 2:17).

He was allowed to marry one of Jethro's daughters, Zipporah. Moses lived in Midian as a shepherd. The top left shows how one day God appears to Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3:2).

The ground he stands on is sacred so he has to take off his shoes (Exodus 3:5).

God tells Moses to lead his people from Egypt to the promised land. In the bottom left Moses and his family return to Egypt to perform that task (Exodus 4:20). Another interpretation of that scene is that is shows the actual journey from Egypt, which was not to happen for many chapters.

On the wall opposite to this fresco Botticelli painted his Temptation of Christ. Both works can be seen as preludes: the Temptation shows what preceded Jesus' preachings, and these Scenes show what preceded Moses' mission.

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