MOSES AND THE BRONZE SERPENT
sculpted wood with monochrome paint
The panel illustrates an episode in the Bible where the Israelites, persecuted by poisonous snakes for having abandoned the divine commandments, are finally saved when the Lord has pity on them: “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Make a fiery snake and place it on a pole. Whoever is bitten can look at it and live’. Moses made a bronze snake and placed it on a pole. If a snake bit someone, that person could look at the bronze snake and live” (Numbers 21, 4-9). In the relief Moses is shown pointing to the bronze reptile which has been raised on a pole; some unfortunate sufferers already turn to the snake to be saved.
The author of this work has been inspired by and freely interpreted a fresco made in 1589 by the Faenza-born painter Ferraù Fenzoni (1552-1645); it is part of the decoration of the Holy Stairs, scenic pilgrimage destination found in the sanctuary built by Domenico Fontana near the San Giovanni in Laterano. The scene created by Fenzoni enjoyed considerable popularity, something which is also witnessed by an engraving made by Francisco Villamena some years later.
Late 16th century