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Nicolas Poussin - The Adoration of the Golden Calf

by Alexandra Tuschka

Well, with a lot of good will, you could call the golden adult bull standing on a pedestal here a "calf". The bull stands for strength and power and is a symbolic animal. Moses is on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, there he receives the tablets of the law from God. But how impatient the Hebrews are! Already they begin to murmur and grumble, demanding from his brother Aaron a God they can follow. Aaron gathers their jewelry and melts the gold into a statue that may be worshipped from now on. When it is finished, the people begin to celebrate a festival.

Around the still image there is a dance of different people, they hold hands, have fluttering robes and rejoice. A female figure in the center of the image is the first eye-catcher of the picture due to her bright dress and the fact that she is barely overlapped. She continues to look to the right, where Aaron is, wearing a white tunic and inviting the Israelites with his gesture to participate in the feast. The women and men are densely packed and staggered at the right edge of the picture, giving the impression of a crowd. Some have already fallen to their knees.

Our actual main character can only be seen darkly in the background: Moses descends with Joshua from the mountain of God. He is enraged when he sees the dance and smashes the tablets of the law. God the Father is also angry and has all 3000 idol worshippers killed.

Nicolas Poussin - The Adoration of the Golden Calf

Oil on canvas, 1634, 154 x 214 cm, National Gallery in London


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