Jacopo Palma il Giovane
The Brass Serpent

1580-81
Church of San Giacomo dall'Orio, Venice, Italy

In Numbers 21:4-9, the Israelites in the desert complained about their hardships, so God sent fiery serpents to torment them. When they repented, he told Moses to "make a brazen serpent and set it up for a sign." Those who looked on the serpent were healed. In John's Gospel, Jesus makes the episode a type of his own salvific death, saying, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up" (3:14). To emphasize this typology, Palma has the serpent raised on a cross.

Light rays emanate from Moses' forehead, following Exodus 34:29's account of his radiance when he came down from the mountain.

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Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.