What Do Giraffes and Michelangelo’s Moses Have in Common?

Neither has real HORNS.  The giraffe is a wonderfully regal animal with a long neck and stubby horns.

The Horns on a Giraffe

The Horns on a Giraffe

The giraffe’s horns remind me of the short “horns” on Michelangelo’s statue of Moses (talk about a bad segue).

The "Horns" on Michelangelo's Statue of Moses

The “Horns” on Michelangelo’s Statue of Moses

Which brings up the question:  Why does Michelangelo’s Moses have horns?  Inquiring minds want to know.

According to one early Latin Vulgate translation of the Book of Exodus, “when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tablets of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord.”  This image of Moses was common throughout the Middle Ages and persisted into and through the Renaissance, and Michelangelo was a Renaissance artist.  But it is now believed that the early Latin translation used “horned” and as euphemism for “glorified.”

And another bad segue.  Maybe giraffes have stubby horns as possible symbol of their glorification?

Actually, giraffe stubs are not called horns but ossicones.  They are formed from ossified cartilage and covered with skin.  Both sexes have a pair, however the females’ are thin and tufted, while males’ are thicker and bald on top.  The latter result from frequent sparring over time.  Fatal combat is rare but can occur.

For more about giraffes click here.

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