The Well of Moses, Dijon

In Dijon, the capital of the Burgundy region of eastern France, to see the monumental sculpture known as the ‘Well of Moses’ (‘Puits de Moïse’), the masterpiece of the Dutch artist Claus Sluter. It was constructed between 1395–1403 for the Carthusian monastery of Chartreuse de Champmol, built as a burial site by the Burgundian Duke Philip the Bold.

‘Portrait of Philip the Bold’ (17th-century copy of a late 14th-century painting)

The structure was originally located in the central courtyard of the main cloister and consisted of four parts – the well, which was about four meters deep, the large hexagonal base, adorned with figures of prophets and angels, a terrace which sat on top of the pillar possibly containing the figures of a ‘Calvary’ scene, and a tall slender cross which rose from the centre.

Drawings of two possible reconstructions of the Well of Moses

Reconstruction in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon

Unfortunately, damage, mainly due to exposure to the weather, has meant that the cross has not survived and there are only fragments of the Calvary, now kept in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon. What is still intact is the hexagonal base with its sculptures of the six prophets who had foreseen the death of Christ on the Cross (Moses, David, Jeremiah, Zachariah, Daniel and Isaiah).

Claus Sluter ‘Well of Moses’ showing David and Jeremiah (1395 – 1403)

Also in the Musée des Beaux-Arts are casts of the busts of the prophets and angels, so these can be examined at close quarters.

Busts of the Prophets and Angels in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon

The tombs of Philip the Bold, his son, John the Fearless and John’s wife, Margaret of Bavaria have been moved from the Chartreuse de Champmol and are also now in the Musée.

Tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy

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