The artist of this painting is so named for his notable rendering of the Greek myth of Daphne fleeing Apollo. In this painting, two scenes from the life of Moses are presented. On the right, the baby Moses has been found floating amongst the reeds in the river Nile and brought to the Pharaoh and his daughter. On the left is a scene historically omitted from Christian texts. It tells the story of three-year-old Moses revealing his nature to the Pharaoh. While amongst his adopted family, Moses took the crown from Pharoah’s head and placed it upon his own. Deeply troubled at this gesture, Pharoah organized Egypt’s elders to help him devise a test to ensure that Moses’ action was ignorant and not indicative of his nature. Two stones were placed before Moses, one onyx and one a hot coal from the fire. The Pharaoh decided that if the boy reached for the finer stone, he would be put to death. If instead though, the child chose the hot coal, the Pharaoh could trust the child’s ignorance. While reaching for the onyx stone, the angel Gabriel guided Moses’ hand towards the coal instead. This left Moses with a speech impediment for the rest of his life but allowed for his continued safety. The Master of Apollo and Daphne has captured the apex of the tense tale. Moses is being whisked off of the dismayed Pharaoh’s lap by his surrogate mother. The elders in attendance of the courtly scene are clearly displaying their animosity towards the boy. Two appear to be exchanging a disgruntled conversation while the third has his arms thrown up in anger, brandishing a knife and pointing an accusatory finger. The most notable decision the artist has made is that of cultural assimilation. The familiar scenes take place not in the historical setting of ancient Egypt but instead in the artist’s modern European renaissance. This is an extremely common practice amongst western artists. It only became the norm to portray biblical scenes accurately in the 1800s.
-Susan Bonta, Class of 2019