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Moses Bringing the Ten Commandments Down from Sinai

The History of Law in Western Civilization is an 18-panel series of the development of in the Western World. It begins with Mosaic Law also known as Kingly Law, where Kings ruled their people.  The early law began with Judeo and eventually Judeo-Christian principles of law,to help ensure that everyone played by the same rules.

As part of the entire sculptural program of Symbolism and Inscription on the Capitol, devised by Nebraskan Hartley Burr Alexander, this series tracks Law as it developed in the Western World.  The entire program of carving these and the additional sculptural details on the Nebraska Capitol took nearly fourteen years, from 1920 until their completion in November 1934.

If you would like to download the PDF of this chapter, taken from my book, Lee Lawrie’s Prairie Deco: History in Stone at the Nebraska State Capitol, 3rd Edition, register here, and I will send you a link to the PDF download, where you send me your request.

This first panel shows Moses presenting the Ten Commandments to his people.  Note the Golden Calf in the picture, then a God to the ancient Egyptians.

This photograph shows Lee Lawrie’s original design in plaster, in a form known as a “maquette.”  The photo was presented to Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, the architect of the Nebraska State Capitol, for his approval, to be included on his masterpiece building.

This photo shows the detail that Lawrie put into his work, and makes visible the crisp details of the model that the sculptors eventually carved into the building.   

Below is the work as it appears on the Capitol.   

I will be adding the additional chapters of this series as time permits.



In the first panel, Moses brings the Ten Commandments, one of the first set of written laws, down from Mount Sinai. Christians and Jews believe that the Commandments were written by God himself.

The Commandments were not exclusively religious, but were also designed to serve a civic purpose for establishing and maintaining order. The establishment of these laws in the 13th century B.C. created a significant degree of order among tribal societies of the ancient Middle Eastern world.

Recall also that Moses had wandered in the wilderness of Sinai, and this may have been the first attempt in history at what we now refer to as nation building. The deal was, if people kept the covenant, God or Yahweh would protect them. The idol of the Golden Calf appears in the upper right of the panel with wings but without gold.

These panels illustrate the influence of Assyrian art on Lawrie’s style. As the panels progress around the building, Lawrie used different historic styles in the panels, going from Assyrian and Egyptian styling to classic Greco-Roman, and using a more naturalistic or what has been described as an architectonic style.