Collections OnlineSistine ChapelSouth wall

The Stories of Moses, which originally included eight panels, each presented by a title in the upper frieze, began from the altar wall with the Birth and Finding of Moses by Perugino, a fresco that was lost when Michelangelo painted the Last Judgement. Thus today the Old Testament cycle starts from the Journey of Moses in Egypt, in which his farewell to his father-in-law Jethro (Exodus 4:18-20), his Return to Egypt with his family (Exodus 4:18-20) and the Circumcision of his second-born (Exodus 4:24-26) all appear in one picture. The second panel describes some Events in the life of Moses: the killing of the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-15), the struggle with the shepherds to defend the daughters of Jethro (Exodus 2:16-22) and the sight of the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-12). The third fresco illustrates the Crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:5-31),which is followed by the Handing over of the Tablets of the Law. This simultaneously narrates Moses' Climbing of Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:12-17; 31:18 ) to receive the Tablets of the Law, the Worship of the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-20), the Punishment of the idolatrous Jews (Exodus 32:25-35) and the return of the Prophet with the new Tablets of the Law (Exodus 34:1-4). The next panel illustrates a rather rare episode, that is to say the Punishment of Korah, Dathan e Abiram (Numbers 16:1-35), Jewish priests who denied Moses and Aaron civil and religious authority over the chosen people. They were for this swallowed up by the earth and consumed by an invisible fire together with their families. The last fresco shows the Legacy and death of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:34) when he is already within sight of the Promised Land. The cycle ends on the entrance wall with the Dispute over the body of Moses (Letter of Jude, 9). Each panel of the stories has a corresponding false drape in the lower section with the enterprises of Sixtus IV. The series of Pontiffs ran along all the walls of the Chapel starting from that of the altar, at the centre of which was Christ and the first pope Peter, as well as Linus and Cletus. The four figures were lost when Michelangelo, by order of Paul III, painted the Last Judgement on this wall in 1536. The Pontiffs were arranged in pairs in niches beside the windows. Their series does not run along a wall, but alternates with the opposite wall. The authors of the series are the same as those of the cycles of the lives of Moses and of Christ, that is to say, Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli and Domenico Ghirlandaio. The position of the various personages differs only slightly. They are usually shown as a full figure in three-quarter profile with a book or scroll, or in the act of blessing. In the lunettes and webs above, Michelangelo painted the Forefathers of Christ, the forerunners of his coming and therefore of the Redemption. They are listed at the beginning of the Gospel of St Matthew (Matthew 1:1-17), which, starting from Abraham, gives the names of forty forefathers of Christ (differing from the other version of the evangelist Luke, which, beginning from Adam, gives 75 families), shown here not so much as historical images but as symbolic figurations of mankind caught in various attitudes and above all in its formation into family units. Numerous attempts to link the names written on the labels to the personages shown have not permitted them to be identified with any certainty.