Sketch for "The Life of Moses"


Sketch for "The Life of Moses"  [ edit ]

A book illustrator and muralist, American artist Violet Oakley captures the "Egyptianness" of Moses with this sketch for an altarpiece in the sanctuary of the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial (originally the Graphic Sketch Club) in Philadelphia. Equal focus is given to Moses and the unnamed Egyptian princess who rescues him from the waters; the hieroglyphic text below her feet reads: "the daughter of the king, may all protection and life be around him [sic] like Re." Surrounding the central mother and child are images from Moses' life, all executed in Egyptian style and based on ancient prototypes.

In the Book of Exodus, Moses and Aaron defeated the magic of the henchmen of Pharaoh, turning a staff into a serpent that devoured those conjured by the Egyptian magicians (Exodus 7: 8-12). Later Christian tradition saw Moses as one educated in the wisdom of Egypt (Acts 7:22). During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Moses and the Greek god Hermes Trismegistus could be associated, even as contemporaries. Moses could be seen as reconciling a higher monotheism of elite Egyptian religion--otherwise polytheistic--with a revealed monotheism.




H. 171.8cm, W. 86cm

Artist or Author

Violet Oakley (1874-1961)




Oil on Canvas


Philadelphia Museum of Art

Accession Number


Credit Line

Gift of the Violet Oakley Memorial Foundation