(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)


Marble, height 235 cm
San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome

The statue of Moses is the summary of the entire monument, planned but never fully realized as the tomb of Julius II. It was intended for one of the six colossal figures that crowned the tomb. Elder brother to the Sistine Prophets, the Moses is also an image of Michelangelo's own aspirations, a figure in de Tolnay's words, "trembling with indignation, having mastered the explosion of his wrath".

The Moses was executed for Michelangelo's second project for the tomb of Julius II. Inspired perhaps by the medieval conception of man as microcosm, he brought together the elements in allegorical guise: the flowing beard suggests water, the wildly twisting hair fire, the heavy drape earth. In an ideal sense, the Moses represents also both the artist and the Pope, two personalities who had in common what is known as "terribilità". Conceived for the second tier of the tomb, the statue was meant to be seen from below and not as it is displayed today at eye-level.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 5 minutes):
Gioacchino Rossini: Moses, Moses' Prayer