William Blake Moses Indignant at the Golden Calf c.1799–1800

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Artwork details

Artist
William Blake 1757–1827
Title
Moses Indignant at the Golden Calf
Date c.1799–1800
Medium Tempera on canvas
Dimensions Support: 380 x 266 mm
frame: 473 x 360 x 48 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Bequeathed by Ian L. Phillips 1986
Reference
T04134
On display at Tate Britain

Display caption

This painting illustrates a scene in the Old Testament book Exodus. Moses was called by God to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, written on two slabs of stone. One Commandment was 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me'. However, in Moses's absence, the Israelites were worshipping a statue of a golden calf. When Moses saw this he broke the stone slabs in fury. In Blake's own mythology, a character named Urizen makes iron laws to repress Man. Blake links Urizen with God and Moses who made the laws of organised religion, which Blake wanted to see destroyed.

August 2004

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