Aaron & Moses (Medieval)

(limestone sculptures, Cathedral of Noyon, about 1170 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The limestone Aaron is very well preserved, the limestone Moses less so. I like the cat-like look on Aaron, the roundness of the cheeks, and flow of the moustache and beard. The face strikes me as closed. Is this a physiognomic type? Was Aaron based on a live model? Is this how a medieval Jew looked to a Christian? Is this what a Jew looked like? Is this what a Jew looked like when he looked at a Christian? Does art imitate life or did life imitate art?

About this I’m more certain. At the Metropolitan Musuem of Art, these two guys occupy a very undistinguished part of the medieval sculpture gallery. It’s very easy to miss them. They just hang there on the wall, maintaining the distance into which they are forced, looking on at all the carrying-on. Unlike their Christian counterparts, they are very undramatic.

Apparently at some point during/after the French Revolution, they were removed from their site at the Cathedral, which renders their provenance even more curious.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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