Skip to main content

Capital letter L. Exodus 32:20

CAT 37 Capital letter L.  Exodus 32.30. Taferelen. BA 41.jpg

CAT 36. Capital letter L. Printed as the first letter of Tableau 11 (from Exodus 32:20) in Taferelen der voornaamste geschiedenissen van het Oude en Nieuwe Testament. The Hague: Pieter de Hondt, 1728, 1:111. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.

Exodus 32: “[19] And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables [tablets] out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. [20] And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it with fire, and ground it into powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.”

Bisected by the letter L, the golden calf is being hammered into pieces by the powerful figures as commanded by Moses. The fragments broken from the calf in the foreground also suggest the tablets Moses has already broken in anger. Melville marked a subsequent passage at the end of Exodus 34 in which Moses renewed the covenant with God by bringing two new tablets down from the mountain, giving the “commandment” to the “children of Israel,” and then putting “a veil on his face” (Exodus 34:29-33; Cowen 3:111-12). 

Saurin’s commentary for this tableau begins, “Nasty and cursed idolatry, from which the sun would turn away, appears in this Tableau” (1:111). Hoet’s full-page plate depicts the entire community in worship of the calf (with the foreground group surrounding, anachronistically, a Dutch teapot).