Sandro Botticelli
Conturbation of the Laws of Moses
(The Punishment of Korah)

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Sandro Botticelli, Conturbation of the Laws of Moses (The Punishment of Korah)



348 X 570 cm

Sistine Chapel, The Vatican

Conturbation of the Laws of Moses (The Punishment of Korah)

The image Botticelli painted shows three scenes from the Old Testament that had to do with the Israelites rebellion. Led by Korah, over 250 Israelites refused to continue to acknowledge Moses and Aaron as leaders because they felt they considered themselves to be higher in God’s eyes. In the front right of the painting there is an angry mob of men wanting to stone Moses. Moses is trying to hold off the mob while Aaron, in the blue robe, is performing a religious ceremony. The mob is not only angry at Moses and Aaron, but also rebelling against the authority Aaron has as a high priest. While Aaron is carrying out a ritual, the rebellious Israelites confront Aaron and Moses but the Israelites are losing their fight. On the left front corner of the image, the ground has opened up and is pulling down two of the Israelite rebels. Two other rebels, thought to be the sons of Korah, have been granted mercy and they are safe above the open ground on a floating cloud above. The punishment of the Israelites rebellion is a mixed one that includes both death and mercy.

The detailed architecture in this painting is a main part of the story Botticelli wanted to tell. The inscription on the image of the Arch of Constantine is interpreted to say that only Aaron was called by God to be a priest; no one else can do what God wants Aaron to do. This brings other issues into the painting that acknowledge the Priests and that their papal authority is supreme. The leadership that was given to Moses by God is what the priests want to be identified with. Botticelli even gave Aaron and Moses similar facial characteristics to further bring them together as someone the priesthood could relate to.

The Conturbation of the Laws of Moses (The Punishment of Korah) image is one of the most stimulating images in the Sistine Chapel. It has movement, great arch detail and an important message. The fact that it gives the authority to the pope and his power, was one that would not be forgotten by the viewer any time soon.





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