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The Worship of the Egyptian Bull God, Apis
Follower of Filippino Lippi

This painting is the second of a pair that depicts episodes from the Book of Exodus, which describes how Moses rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and accompanied them into the promised land of Canaan.

Moses had left the Israelites for 40 days and nights, climbing Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God. Upon his return, he found his people worshipping a cult image of a golden calf, which he destroyed in anger. The painting depicts the moment immediately beforehand: the golden calf hovers in a cloud above a group of Israelites dancing and playing music.

It has been argued that the golden calf is shown here as the Egyptian bull god Apis, identified by the crescent moon on its shoulder. However, this moon may also allude to the heraldic device of the Strozzi, a Florentine patrician family. Some of them were exiled from Florence, and the Book of Exodus, with its narrative of the Israelites' exile in Egypt, would have resonated with their personal experience.

Key facts
Artist Follower of Filippino Lippi
Artist dates about 1457 - 1504
Full title The Worship of the Egyptian Bull God, Apis
Group Two Scenes from the Story of Moses
Date made about 1500
Medium and support Oil and egg on wood
Dimensions 78.1 x 137.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Sir Henry Bernhard Samuelson, Bt, in memory of his father, 1937
Inventory number NG4905
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Two Scenes from the Story of Moses

These paintings were probably made to decorate a private house.