Moses presenting the tablets of law

Valentin Bousch (French, active 1514–41, died 1541)

French, Lorraine, Metz
H. 9' 11 3/8 x W. 66 1/4 in. (303.2 x 168.3 cm.) [a-o only]
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This window comes from a series of seven windows made for the choir of the Benedictine priory church of Saint-Firmin in Flavigny-sur-Moselle in the Lorraine region of France.

    The windows had been commissioned by the prior, Wary de Lucy (1510-1557) from Valentin Bousch, a glass painter in Metz who had already worked on a number of important projects including Metz cathedral. Bousch was occupied by the Flavigny-sur-Moselle project in the early 1530s. Three of the extant monumental windows from the series each bear a date (1531, 1532 and 1533). Bousch was one of the most significant master glaziers in north-eastern France in the sixteenth century and has long been recognized as an important participant in the stylistic and technical developments of the Northern Renaissance.

    Together, the windows presented a Biblical narrative reflecting the story of humanity, starting with the Creation and Fall of Man (until recently in a private collection, Langley, British Columbia), then consecutively depicting the Deluge (MMA 17.40.2a-r), Moses presenting the tablets of Law (MMA 17.40.1a-r), the Nativity or Annunciation at the east end (lost), the Crucifixion (Saint Joseph's church, Stockbridge, Mass.), the Resurrection or the Supper at Emmaus (lost) and, finally, the Last Judgement (lost). Decorative consoles at the base of each window (not currently on view) depict the arms of Savigny and Craincourt, Wary de Lucy's forbearers.

    In these windows, Valentin Bousch rejected traditional compartmentalization, instead treating each composition like an enormous painted or carved retable, with trompe l'œil architectural frames. Brilliant hues of colored glass are combined with painted areas of grisaille and silver-stain on clear glass. The windows provide an early example of daring virtuoso glass-cutting to achieve sharp and sinuous contours. As a group, the windows are remarkable because of their nuanced modeling, their vitality of composition, lifelike features and the contrast of exquisite landscape details (like those in the Moses window) with dramatic dynamism (most skilful in the Deluge window).

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: On tablet held by left predella figure: CUSTODITE/ OMNE MAN/ DATV[M] QVOD/ PR[A]ECIPIO/ VOBIS HOD[I]E/ EXOD/ 20 ['Keep all the commandments which I command you this day' Deuteronomy, 27:1 (Authorized King James Version), not Exodus, 20 as in inscription]

    On tablet held by right predella figure: SI VOLV/- ERITIS ET/ AVD[I]ERI/ TIS ME/ BONA TER/ R[A]E COME/ DETIS esaiel 1:19 ['If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land' Isaiah, 1:19 (Authorized King James Version)]

    Central reservation between prophet predella figures: FRAVS/ INIMICA/ LVCI/ 1532 ['Fraud the enemy of light 1532' Donor's motto]

    On lowest register (not on view in gallery): Shield, argent with foliations, three lions rampant sable, armed and langued gules, ducally crowned or, surmounted by coronet and flanked by amorini and scrolls (at center of decorative "plinth") [donor's arms]

    Across lowest register: F I L [initials of donor's motto]

    At base of "plinth" springer: Two small shields, each or, V and B sable [initials of Valentin Bousch]

  • Provenance

    [ Arnold Seligmann, Rey and Company, New York , 1917; sold to MMA ]

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History