This work and 'Moses striking the Rock' are highly finished modellos for frescoes in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome. In about 1744 Giaquinto was commissioned to carry out the decoration of the two ceilings and the apse walls. The extremely high degree of finish and quality of the four sketches for the frescoes indicates the importance of this commission for Giaquinto.
In 'The Brazen Serpent' Moses holds a tau-shaped staff prefiguring the Crucifixion.
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These two paintings were made as modelli (preparatory works) for frescoes in the apse of a church in Rome.