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Sluter, Well of Moses

Claus Sluter (with Claus de Werve), The Well of Moses, 1395-1405 (calvary finished 1399, prophets 1402-05, painted by Jean Malouel c. 1402), Asnières stone with gilding and polychromy, slightly less than 7 meters high, originally close to 13 meters with cross. Located on the grounds of the former Chartreuse de Champmol, a Carthusian monastery in Dijon, France established by Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. The prophets depicted include: Moses, David, Jeremiah, Zachariah, Daniel, and Isaiah. Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • female robot grace style avatar for user Cassandra Hamilton
    At , Moses is shown with horns. This depiction comes from a mistranslation by Jerome when he was translating into Latin a Greek passage. What was the passage and what was the incorrect translation?
    (22 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Andrew Mossberg
      Exodus -35 tells that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai his face was transformed. The word used can mean either horns or beams of light. Everywhere else in the Bible that word is used, it means horns but the current accepted translation for that one and only one particular instance is now radiant.
      (25 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user kskads
    What happened to the cross?
    (13 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user John
      My understanding is that the crucifixion part was another victim of the French Revolution, although ironically the only remaining parts are the head still attached to the torso (unlike so many people from that period).
      (14 votes)
  • female robot grace style avatar for user Cassandra Hamilton
    That water looks really gross. Does anyone drink that water?
    (6 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Alex
      The water looks open air, as if collecting rain water. Rain water has a number of uses, for washing, laundry, and irrigatoin for plants and animals.

      Rain water should be boiled before drinking.
      (8 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user Edward Nakhla
    Why is it impossible to find a bearded angel? Why is that trait always ascribed to humans?
    (7 votes)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Pipob Puthipiroj
    I'm not sure if this is one piece or several pieces attached together by some way. Do you guys think this is one piece of some kind of material (I don't know if this is sandstone, the blue is probably lapis lazuli)? Or was was it several stones attached together?
    (5 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user srijanuzir
    At , they say that the structure is hexagonal. Any particular reason for that? Are there any theological or philosophical implications of choosing such a structure?
    (3 votes)
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  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user cliftoo
    Is the building containing the well contemporary to the well and sculpture? Is it a replacement for an original structure or a later addition?
    (3 votes)
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  • female robot ada style avatar for user Tracy Mossman Isom
    Were the walls, around the well, always there?
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user cheery.reaper15
    The angels depicted here are far more emotive than those depicted in Italian Renaissance art. Is this a distinctive feature of Northern art of this period?
    (1 vote)
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  • male robot hal style avatar for user CLAMOJ1
    at why would people challenge the monks?
    (1 vote)
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    • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Sam Warnke
      The video says that Zachariah is challenging the monks to understand the significance of what is transpiring above him on top of the sculpture.

      The Bible teaches in Romans that "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." What's going on there is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, who was sent by God The Father to take the guilt and consequences of our sins upon himself and to suffer and die. This is so that we can be redeemed by God, through faith in Him and baptism.

      I see it almost as if Zachariah is saying "Hey you, yes, YOU. Look up here. This is a representation of the Son of God, the ONLY Son of God, dying for you. Dying so that you can have eternal life."
      (3 votes)

Video transcript

(piano playing) Dr. Zucker: We're standing on a wooden walkway suspended over water, which is actually fairly deep. Dr. Harris: Well, this is a well after all. We are looking at a beautiful monument by Claus Sluter called The Well of Moses. It got that title fairly recently, it was originally known as The Great Cross. Dr. Zucker: Of course the cross is no longer here. Let's give this a little bit of context. Dr. Harris: There's a lot of things that are no longer here, right? This monument stood in the middle of a cloister surrounded by the cells of Carthusian monks, the rooms where they would meditate and this cloister was in a monastery established by Philip the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy. Dr. Zucker: So we're talking about the late 14th Century. We're in Burgundy, in Dijon, or rather I should say just outside of the old walls of the city. This was a place that the Duke had commissioned in order that monks could continuously say prayers over his soul. Dr. Harris: It also was intended by Philip, and became his burial place and the burial place of his family. Dr. Zucker: It's important to remember that the Carthusians are a closed society. That is they dedicate themselves entirely to solitary prayer. Dr. Harris: What better environment to ensure the salvation of your soul for eternity. Dr. Zucker: It's interesting that Philip the Bold, the Duke actually seems to have really loved the Carthusians. In fact, he specified that he would be buried in a Carthusian robe and of course he wanted to be buried here. Dr. Harris: We're looking at a very well funded monastery, the most brilliant artists of Europe are working here including Claus Sluter. We're looking up at a hexagonal structure. On each side is a Prophet standing in front of a niche. Dr. Zucker: Interestingly and importantly, this is breaking with the Medieval tradition of having those figures completely embedded within the architecture. Dr. Harris: Each figure of the Prophet is separated by a lovely column with a Capital and standing on those Capital's are Angel's in positions of grieving and prayer with their wings outstretched. Above them we see a base and on the base would have stood a very tall and narrow cross with Christ on it and at the base of that cross the single, kneeling figure of Mary Magdalene. All of this was painted, you can see blue, there would have been gold and green. It really would have come alive and the monks would have been inspired in their prayer when they looked at this monument. Dr. Zucker: Sluter is able to give an individual life to each figure. The drapery really does give a sense of the movement of the body within it, maybe not so much the structures of the body but at least its engagement with the space around it. Dr. Harris: And look up at the figure of King David. First of all, a figure that would have been very important to the Duke of Burgundy, of David, himself, a King. He's so specific, so individualized. There's a depth and sense of wisdom in his personality. There's a recent suggestion that that figure next to King David, who is the Prophet Jeremiah is also a portrait of Philip the Bold. Dr. Zucker: In fact, if we look at contemporary portraits of Philip they look awfully similar. Dr. Harris: They do. Dr. Zucker: Moses is looking out past us, above us as a seer, but Zachariah looks down. Dr. Harris: And almost offers us his prophecy. Dr. Zucker: But also challenges us, challenges the monks that would have lived with this sculpture, "Do you see as I see? "Do you understand the importance of the tragedy "of the spiritual and miracle that transpires above?" Dr. Harris: We have these Angel's all in different positions, some with their arms folded on their chest, some with their arms raised, some clutching their drapery or touching their face. There's a depth of emotion in the figures of the Prophets and a real depth of emotion in the Angel's, all of which, I think, would have been inspiration to the monks. Dr. Zucker: That's important to remember. I mean, here we are at the well, the center of life of the monastery. The monastery itself was meant to continuously pray for the soul of the Duke, so in some ways this sculptural group of what we now call The Well of Moses was the engine in the center of the monastery that was meant to power, in a sense, inspire the prayer of the monks. It is one of the most spectacular late Medieval sculptures that certainly I've ever seen. (piano playing)