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Sebastiano Conca, Aaron and the Golden Calf
Biblical - Historical - Mythologic
1750 ca.
Material and technique
oil on canvas
134 x 97 cm
Alessandro Zuccari
The painting depicts the well-known biblical incident that took place during the flight from Egypt:  when Moses went up onto Mount Sinai, the Israelites, fearing he would never return, asked Aaron to give them another god to worship.  Aaron gave in to the pressure of their demands and used their gold jewellery to construct an idol in the form of a calf.
The painting focuses on the figure of Aaron, Moses’ brother and first high priest, who wears a breast-plate decorated with twelve precious stones, symbolizing the tribes of Israel. Grouped around him are figures worshipping the idol, which is protected by a blue curtain, and trumpeters gathering the crowd. The burning top of Mount Zion is just visible in the upper part of the canvas.
Mid-way between the late Baroque style and a new form of Classicism, this considered work by Conca, who was born in Gaeta, is one of a large series of biblical paintings executed in his Roman studio in the early part of the eighteenth century.  Indeed, there are elements in common with The Idolisation of Solomon in the Museo del Prado in Madrid  and the several versions of Alexander the Great in the Temple of Jerusalem in numerous museums. The flowing gauze of the drapery and the sense of airy space, crowded with expressive figures, define Conca’s style as a modernized extension of the language of the Baroque period.
Aaron and the Golden Calf
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