Jonathan Cohen

Jonathan Cohen

Posted on 05/16/2013

Photo taken on June 20, 2012

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Forbes Avenue
Oakland neighborhood
Carnegie Museum
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
relief statues
Carnegie Institute
Hall of Architecture
Chartreuse de Champmol
United States
Well of Moses

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The Well of Moses – Carnegie Museum, Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Well of Moses – Carnegie Museum, Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Claus Sluter (1350-1406) was the most creative and powerful sculptor of the late middle ages. This Netherlandish master worked in the service of the Dukes of Burgundy. His artistic genius created art objects that are still seen today in Dijon, France and his greatest creation was the Well of Moses (Moses Fountain).

The Carthusian Monastery (better known as the Chartreuse de Champmol) was intended to be the burying place at the end of the 14th century for the Duke of Burgundy (a prince of the royal house of France), Philip the Bold and his family. Located just outside Philip’s Burgundian capital of Dijon, this monastery was originally chartered in 1385. It became a prodigious art center which drew many other artists from Paris and Flanders. It was here that Claus Sluter executed the Well of Moses. This large famous hexagonal fountain was built in the center of the cloister between 1396 and 1404. Carved in stone from Asnières, France it was a premier artwork of its time and just one of Sluter’s representative artistic achievements under Philip the Bold and Philip’s son John the Fearless (1371-1419).

The most famous of the prophets, Moses, seems theatrically angry. The dramatic folds in the voluminous drapery add to the expression of the figure. The horns on his head are typical in medieval art--a mistranslation of the Bible for "rays" of light. Standing next to Moses is a figure of the prophet Isaiah. And next tp Isaiah we see the head of the prophet Daniel (dressed as a Burgundian courtier of the late 14th century).

The fountain served as a cemetery cross and also as an irrigation source for the monastery’s orchard. The monastery functioned until the time of the French Revolution when it was mostly destroyed. The hexagonal base with the figures of the six personalities of the Hebrew Bible who were thought to have foreseen the coming of Jesus (Moses, David, Jeremiah, Zachariah, Daniel and Isaiah) fortunately survived. Sluter’s Calvary group and the crucifix were damaged during the first half of the 18th century and then these wonders of art and faith, powerful symbols of domination by the joined powers of church and state, were destroyed in 1791.The charterhouse was also mostly destroyed during the French Revolution.

A cast of part of the fountain is displayed in the Hall of Architecture at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.

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