NEW LIGHT ON MICHLANGELO’S MOSES
AT SAN PIETRO IN VINCOLI, ROME
NEW LIGHT ON MICHELANGELO’S MOSES IN ROME
Visitors of San Pietro in Vincoli Church in Rome will be able to see one of the world’s most celebrated statues the , Michelangelo’s Moses, under the same natural light of the great artist’s times.
The statue was in need of being cleaned: a dark patina created by humidity, dust and other polluting agents was to be removed. But this quite simple intervention triggered further research.
The restorer, Antonio Forcellin, that had already worked on the Julius II Pope tomb ( in which the Moses is inserted) approximately until 15 years ago found out that different surfaces of the stone were treated in different wyas, using different polishing techniquea and gestures to obtain particular chiaroscuro effects.
If the great Florentine genius wanted the light to be absorbed by the material he would simply use the ‘gradina’ a kind of dog’s teeth chisel.
To obtain a polished effect he would use pumice instead.
To obtain a glossy, precious effect he would employ lead, as he did for the arm and the forehead, for instance, where he knew the sunbeams would beat,
At a distance, under the natural light, these are the surfaces of the monument that shinewith more intensity, Forcellin states.
Unfortunately these splendid effects, that proved Michelangelo’s ability to sculpt with the light, obtaining sophisticated chiaroscuro effects on marble, had been darkened by the walling, 150 years ago, of a window on the monument wall.
The thousand of visitors that entered the church since 1867 saw the monument in darkness, and the light effects on marble were totally lost!
As there was no way of reopening that window, it was decided instead to recreate the natural light by using modern technology.
The expert, Mario Nanni, studied the light that beat on the basilica the day of 1546 in which Michelangelo, after long and terrible vicissitudes, decided to put in place the statue of Moses .
Following the movements of the sun for an entire day,
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he recreated artificially an illumination respectful of the genious of the only artist of the world able to sculpt with the sunbeams.
A word must be said about the symbology of the sunrays on Moses face and head.
According to a passage of Exodus, when Moses descended from Mount Sinai with the tables of the Law his face was radiant from having been in direct touch with God.
The passage in Hebrew reads ‘his face shone’, but the Hebrew word ‘karan’= ‘to radiate’ was improperly translated by St Jerome in the Vulgata ‘his face had horns’, (as ‘keren’ is ‘horn’ in Hebrew). This is one of the most accredited versions to explain why Moses is represented here with horns.
However we might also Envision those horns as a sort of solidified sunbeams, Horns of light, witnesses of the suoerhuman energy transmitted by God to His Prophet. The powerful, dynamic figure of Moses can be also considered a symbolical portrait of the great ‘warrior’ Pope Julius II and, in its severity and ‘terribility’ a self portrait of the artist himself.
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