michelangelo moses. marble sculpture

Michelangelo, Moses (in the Tomb of Julius II in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, Italy), 1513-16. 1542-45

Michelangelo’s first papal sculpture commission, the tomb of Julius II, still incomplete at Julius’s death in 1513, plagued him and his patrons for forty years. He presented his designs to the pope for a large freestanding structure with more than forty statues but the pope halted the tomb project to divert money to other endeavors. After Julius died, his children began to cut back on the tombs expenses. Between 1513 and 1516 and again between 1542 and 1545, Michelangelo worked on Moses, the only sculpture from the original design to be incorporated into the final monument. No longer an actual tomb, the monument was installed in 1545 in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, where Julijus had been the cardinal. Moses holds the tablets of the Law, which he has just received from God on Mount Sinai. He is a large, muscular figure, swathed in detailed drapery. He is seated in a restless contrapposto that strains the insides of the niche. His beard, curled and detailed, flows beyond his jaw and onto his chest (Marilyn Stokstad, Art History, Volume Two. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008, 675).