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Moses by Michelangelo

Posted on Apr 15, 2009 | 15 comments

I think my biggest nerdy art fantasy would be to have dinner with Michelangelo and Bernini. Can you image? My art historian heart beats faster when I think of what sort of sculptures they would have created if they’d been commissioned by someone to do pieces for the same space.

The Moses by Michelangelo, which was created as part of Pope Julius II‘s unfinished tomb, is one of the few (or only?) pieces of sculpture by Michelangelo in Rome. It’s so funny to me that a lot of people don’t even think of him as a sculptor, associating him only with the Sistine Chapel. This would have driven him crazy! He didn’t want to paint, but was forced to by Julius II and had always hoped that he could return to his original commission, which was Julius’ tomb. The Moses piece is located in San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains), which is the church that I photographed the Spanish students hanging out in front of.

As usual I decided to focus on my favorite detail of the sculpture, which is Moses’ fingers winding through his long beard. The most impressive thing to me about sculpture is when the marble is made to look soft and malleable (which is probably why Bernini is my favorite sculptor). Here Michelangelo has captured that softness without giving up any of the strength and majesty that his pieces posses. The last photo features the head of Moses, gazing off into the distance. I will always remember my high school history teacher explaining why Moses had horns. It was a bad translation of the Bible and so instead of “halo” the word was transcribed incorrectly as “horns,” thus all the horn bearing Moses’.

San Pietro in Vincoli is free to visit and is open from 7.30 to 12.30 and 3.30 to 6.30.


  1. This is one of my favorite works of art. I think it’s interesting the tomb was finished by someone else. You can tell.

  2. mi inchino alla bellezza e alla bravura

  3. Look at those hands -sheer genius-I am constantly amazed at all the artistic talent found in one country -it will never be duplicated

  4. Works like Moses remind me why I live in Rome. I love that you focused on the details here to show a statue so familiar to me in a totally different light.

  5. Splendid are the photos of Moises’s hands. I wonder how do you manage to live in Rome with a camara end all those “models” and not become overwhelmed.

  6. you should also remind what happened when Michelangelo looked at Moses and said, after hitting it with his chisel: “Why don’t you speak?”


  7. The detail is breathtaking! Pure genius!

  8. These photos take my breath away.

  9. Love, love, love…

  10. Your photography shows this work in all its glory. Great job!

  11. Great image. The hands and beard and amazing.

  12. Ciao!

    Innanzitutto complimentoni per le foto, sono veramente splendide!! 🙂

    Se ami le sculture di Michelangelo, a Roma puoi trovare oltre alla famosissima Pietà, presente nella basilica di S. Pietro, la statua del Cristo Portacroce nella basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Chiesa di per sè molto bella anche perchè è l’unico esempio di gotico puro a Roma (l’interno, non la facciata). E nella piazzetta di fronte c’è il famoso elefantino del Bernini, al quale è legata una curiosa leggenda. 🙂

    Un salutone

  13. Wow…I knew I’d probably get a lot of comments about these photos, but one day and already 12! Thanks guys.

    Wow…spaveo che forse viene tanti commenti per queste foto ma gia’ 12 in un giorno! Grazie mille a tutti.

    NYC – The idea of finishing someone else’s work after their death actually happens quite a lot. Though this piece of the tomb is ‘finished’ it’s actually not very close to Michelangelo’s finished vision. His original vision would have included about 40 sculptures and the structure was almost 3 stories high. His unfinished slaves (many of which are in the Accademia in Florence) were also meant for this piece.

    JJ – Hai ragione! La Pieta’ a San Pietro e’ favolosa ma purtroppo a causa di quello pazzo nei anni 70 c’e’ il vetro. E ho scordato completamente Santa Maria Sopra Minerva che e’ fantastica. Ho fatto un foto del elefantino di Bernini ma non l’ho messa sul blog. Grazie per i consigli!

    If you don’t read Italian, and so can’t understand JJ’s great comment, he just reminded me of the amazing Pieta’ sculpture in St. Peter’s, as well at his Christ Carrying the Cross in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which is right by the Pantheon and should be visited as it’s the only Gothic style church in Rome (and there’s a cute Bernini elephant sculpture in front).

  14. Thank you, thank you.

  15. In this sculpture I am looking the mind of Moses in his eyes.

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