ROSSELLI, Cosimo
(b. 1439, Firenze, d. 1507, Firenze)

Crossing of the Red Sea

1481-82
Fresco, 350 x 572 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

The fresco is from the cycle of the life of Moses in the Sistine Chapel. It is located on the third compartment on the south wall. The episodes from the life of Moses were conceived of as typological scenes prefiguring significant episodes in the life of Christ.

In the painting we see the people of Israel passing through the Red Sea. The sequence begins in the background to the right, where Moses and Aaron are pleading with Pharaoh to release the people of Israel. After God sends plagues on Egypt, Pharaoh finally relents, but then pursues the departing foreigners with his army. Moses parts the waters of the sea with his staff so that the Israelites can pass through them. When he raises the staff a second time the waters close up behind them, and their pursuers, Pharaoh in the lead, are drowned. Rising above the flood is the pillar of fire with which God struck fear in the army of the Egyptians. On the left-hand shore Moses stands, staff in hand, with the people of Israel. The kneeling woman in the foreground is the prophetess Miriam, who has taken up a drum to thank the Lord for their rescue.




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