Sunday, February 22, 2004

MOSES' HORNS YET AGAIN. Reader Larry Swain e-mails:
In regard to today's posts on "Michey", your correspondant is making leaps in logic. The issue is easily resolved.

1) In the Vulgate, as you know, Jerome uses the word "cornu"
2) we can point to commentaries which so describe Moses
3) in addition to the commentaries one can point to manuscript art, sculpture, church art etc that depict Moses with horns of light coming out of his forehead, almost always 2, just 2 horns
4) while it is true that Jews were demonized in the period, that art frequently depicts them as wearing horns in the late medieval and early renaissance period, that the Council of Venice for example required them to wear hats with horns etc, there is little direct connection to M's Moses' sculpture (see below)
5) While the Jews are vilified in the period, the heroes of faith in the Christian Old Testement, though recognized as Jews, are held up as forerunners, types, and "pre-Christian" Christians. Moses and Jeremiah and David are the good guys.
6) Finally, the capper. In Michelangelo's works are many Jews...Jeremiah, Moses, David, Abraham to name a few. Of these, ONLY MOSES POPS UP WITH HORNS!

If one wishes to explain the presence of horns on M's Moses as part of a villification of Jews and Judaism one must on the one explain away the tradition of Moses depicted with horns and the commentary tradition which accompanies it as of no or little importance to Michelangelo as well as why none of his other Jewish figures do not bear similar horns. On the other hand, one must be able to make a direct connection between such vilification and demonization of Jews and Judaism and Michelangelo's Moses such as a vilification of Moses himself in Christian thought or rejection of Moses as a type of Christ as well as explain the lack of such horns on other Jewish figures such as David and Jeremiah. It seems to me more likely that Michelangelo is simply making use of a typical, frequent, well-known, well-attested tradition of depicting Moses.

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