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Sep 2011

Shedding Light on Michelangelo ’s “Moses ”

Arch Dermatol. 2011;147(9):1092. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.225

Michelangelo (1475-1564) was one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance. Among his most admired masterpieces is the sculpture of Moses, a magnificent artwork with one curious feature: it depicts Moses with 2 horns on his head. The story behind these horns actually involves a unique dermatologic phenomenon that characterized the face of the great Jewish prophet as described in the Book of Exodus (34:29). According to the biblical text, when Moses descended Mount Sinai, “the skin of his face had become radiant ” (Hebrew transliteration: karan ohr panav) such that the rays of light would shine and project like horns off his face.1

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