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OBJECT OF THE MONTH – January 2005

Torah shield with the images of Moses and Aaron
(at Klausen Synagogue)

The images of Moses and Aaron are among the commonplace topics of Judaic figural decoration. The depiction of both images on the sides of the Torah shield probably spread to Bohemia and Moravia from Silesia in the 18th century. The greatest influence of these images was in Moravia, where there is a relatively large group of Torah shields decorated in this way, most of which were made by Brno silversmiths at the beginning of the 19th century. The shield on display, which is without a maker’s mark, was probably made in the area of Vratislav, Silesia, from where there are known to be similar examples, although it may be an early Moravian product. Moses is depicted in the usual iconographic tradition, with horns growing on his head. This tradition can be traced back to an interpretation error from a passage in the Hebrew Bible that describes the disfigurement of Moses’ face following his descent from Mount Sinai. Subsequently, this illogical error led many artists to attempt to interpret more accurately the meaning of the biblical text in question by depicting rays of light, rather than the horns depicted in this example.




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