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Maffei, Francesco (attributed to)
The High Priest Aaron Holding a Censer and a Book The High Priest Aaron Holding a Censer and a Book
around 1657 - 1660 around 1657 - 1660

A bearded man with a cloth draped over his head turns to the right and gazes upward. He holds a gently sloping book between the long fingers of his proper left hand and a metallic censer suspended by three chains from the fingers of his proper right. This vessel identifies the ecclesiastical character of the figure, whose simple garb, with no parallel in Church usage, sets him in antiquity. The presence of the censer recalls the tradition of depicting the first high priest, Aaron, and such an identification would be consistent with the figure’s reverent heavenward gaze. However, other attributes by which Aaron was traditionally identified are missing—the turban (or mitre), the ephod (a rectangular breastplate set with gemstones) or the budding rod—and for this reason the figure was distinguished only as a priest. But this association is unlikely, as there is no iconographic tradition for portrait-like depictions of anonymous priests. It is more likely that the draped cloth was intended to evoke Aaron’s head covering. The identity of the figure could have been likewise clarified by being paired with a depiction of Moses as part of a larger decorative scheme for a church.

 
Maffei, Francesco (attributed to)
Venice, Italy 1605–Padua, Italy 1660 Venice, Italy 1605–Padua, Italy 1660
The High Priest Aaron Holding a Censer and a Book The High Priest Aaron Holding a Censer and a Book
around 1657 - 1660 around 1657 - 1660
Oil on canvas Oil on canvas
height / width: 76.20 x 62.20 cm; 30.00 x 24.49 in.
Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 1993 Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 1993
36-002

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