Michelangelo’s “Moses”, God’s friend
There are countless interpretations of Michelangelo’s “Moses”, currently in Rome’s Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli. Especially in the past two hundred years, the masterpiece has attracted the curiosity of art critics, theologians, and even psychiatrists (including Freud, who wrote a book about the sculpture that, he said, moved him more than any other work of art had before).
Michelangelo worked on it for a long time: he started sculpting in 1513 and didn’t officially finish until 1542. After all, he was creating the central piece in a complex that he meant to be Pope Julius II’s mausoleum (although Pope Della Rovere was later buried in the Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano).
The famous Giorgio Vasari, who was a painter and art historian in Michelangelo’s time, left us an engaging and evocative description of the statue in his “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects”: he stated it was
unequalled by any modern or ancient work […] The beautiful face, like that of a saint and mighty prince, seems as one regards it to need the veil to cover it, so splendid and shining does it appear, and so well has the artist presented in the marble the divinity with which God had endowed that holy countenance […] that Moses may now be called the friend of God more than ever.