Whatever else The Da Vinci Code did, it forced me to look at Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper more closely than I’d ever looked at it before.
Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol, is less controversial than The Da Vinci Code. It’s not as good as a piece of entertainment, either. I’ve written about the book and its blunders here and here. Yet The Lost Symbol did teach me something.
There’s a scene in the Library of Congress, in the Main Reading Room (which happens to be my favorite interior space in Washington, but that’s another story). A character points to a statue of Moses on a balcony–and notes that Moses has horns. We’re treated to a short explanation: “The Moses above them had horns for the same reason thousands of Christian images of Moses had horns–a mistranslation of the book of Exodus.” An online encyclopedia has more.
I’ve spent many hours at the Library of Congress, beneath the gaze of the Moses statue, but I had never noticed this detail. So when I was at the library last week, I investigated. Yes, the Moses statue has horns. They’re hard to see from the floor of the reading room, amid the wisps of hair. The tourist balcony that overlooks the reading room, however, is right behind the Moses statue. It’s impossible to get a good look at the front of the statue, but by craning your neck the right way, you can see that Moses indeed has horns.
I couldn’t find an image of the library’s Moses statue, but here’s a statue of Moses by Michelangelo, complete with horns: