World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

The Crossing of the Red Sea (Sistine Chapel)

Article Id: WHEBN0031674844
Reproduction Date:

Title: The Crossing of the Red Sea (Sistine Chapel)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Vocation of the Apostles, Sistine Chapel, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Bartolomeo della Gatta, The Trials of Moses (Botticelli)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Crossing of the Red Sea (Sistine Chapel)

The Crossing of the Red Sea
Artist Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli or Biagio d'Antonio
Year 1481–1482
Type Fresco
Dimensions 350 cm × 572 cm (140 in × 225 in)
Location Sistine Chapel, Rome

The Crossing of the Red Sea is a fresco executed in 1481–1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome. Of uncertain attribution, it has been assigned to one between Domenico Ghirlandaio, Biagio d'Antonio or Cosimo Rosselli.


On 27 October 1480 several Florentine painters left for Rome, where they had been called as part of the reconciliation project between Lorenzo de' Medici, the de facto ruler of Florence, and Pope Sixtus IV. The Florentines started to work in the Sistine Chapel as early as the Spring of 1481, along with Pietro Perugino, who was already there.

Detail of the storm.

The theme of the decoration was a parallel between the Stories of Moses and those of Christ, as a sign of continuity between the Old and the New Testament. A continuity also between the divine law of the Tables and the message of Jesus, who, in turn, chose Peter (the first alleged bishop of Rome) as his successor: this would finally result into a legitimation of the latter's successors, the popes of Rome.

Among the several fresco in the cycle, that of the Passage of the Red Sea was the one with the most problematic attribution. Although the name of Ghirlandaio was made by several authorities, the work's style is more reminiscent of that of Cosimo Rosselli or Biagio d'Antonio.



The scene is part of the chapel's Stories of Moses cycle, and, like other frescoes there, shows several scenes at the same time. The sequence begins from the right background, where Moses and Aaron are begging the pharaoh to free the Israelites. On the right are the Egyptian soldiers, shown in typical Italian Renaissance military garments, armor and weapons, who are drowning after the Red Sea waters, which had miraculously opened to allow the Israelites to cross them, close around them. The pharaoh is portrayed in a frantic scream, while other figures try to return to the Egyptian shore by swimming. Before the army is a column hovering over the waters: this is a representation of the fire pillar sent by Yahweh to scare the Egyptians.

In the upper central area is a hail storm, sent by God to punish the Egyptians. Also depicted are some sunrays and, more to the left, a rainbow, symbols of the upcoming liberation for the Israelite people. Similar representation of meteorological phenomena were not uncommon in the 15th-century Italian art: other examples are Fra Angelico's Martyrdom of St. Mark on the Tabernacle of the Linaioli, and several Paolo Uccello's St. George and the Drake.

On the left are the Israelites, led by a young Moses with the typical green garment and yellow cloak, and a command baton, after they have just crossed the sea. Their safeness is testified by the presence of recreational activities, such as the prophetess Miriam playing a chordophone in the foreground. They continue their trip in procession, disappearing on the left, in a naturalistic landscape. Details include a pet dog in the foreground, reminiscent of Benozzo Gozzoli's paintings in the Magi Chapel.


External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.