Moses Presenting the Tablets of the Law
Moses Presenting the Tablets of the Law, ca. 1648
Oil on canvas
39 × 30 in. (99.06 × 76.2 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Myron Laskin, Sr. M1964.121
Photo credit: Efraim Lev-er
Brussels-born French artist Philippe de Champaigne enjoyed a 40-year career painting for aristocracy that included Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. His attraction to the strict Jansenist Catholic reform movement may have underlain the rigorous truthfulness and careful skill that he brought to his intelligent interpretation of portraits and religious themes. Champaigne’s asceticism and sincerity are evident in this portrayal of a courtly but exotic Moses presenting the Ten Commandments. With characteristic concern for accuracy, Champaigne arranged the commandments in the order recommended by contemporary theologians and on tablets whose rectangular shape was considered authentic. His powerful naturalism, depicting each wrinkle and dirty fingernail as faithfully as the texture of the velvet, eloquently conveys the humble fervor of the prophet.
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