Unquestioned representations of Moses and/or the 10 Commandments:
Justice the Guardian of Liberty. This sculpture is a frieze located above the East (back) entrance to the Supreme Court building. Moses (holding blank tablets) is depicted as one of trio of three Eastern law givers (Confucius, Solon, and Moses). The trio is surrounded by a variety of allegorical figures representing legal themes. The artist, Herman MacNeil, described his intentions in creating the sculpture as follows:
Nothing in MacNeil's description, in other words, suggests any special connection between American law and the 10 Commandments. Moses is simply one of three important lawgivers from the East.
The South Courtroom Frieze. The Courtroom friezes were designed by sculptor Adolph Weinman. These friezes are located well above the courtroom bench, on all four walls. The South and North wall friezes form a group that depicts a procession of 18 important lawgivers: Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius, Augustus, Justinian, Mohammed, Charlemagne, King John, St. Louis, Hugo Grotius, William Blackstone, John Marshall, and Napoleon. Moses is holding blank tablets. The Moses figure is no larger or more important than any other lawgiver. Again, there is nothing here to suggest and special connection between the 10 Commandments and American law.
The Curator's office makes the following comments on Weinman's North and South frieze sculptures:
The Oak Courtroom Doors. The oak doors separating the courtroom from the central hallway of the Supreme Court building contain a representation of tablets bearing the Roman numerals one through ten; the Commandments themselves are not written out. The tablets depiction is located on the inside bottom of the doors. A second artistic embellishment (a circle with engraved woodwork) is located at eye-level on the inside of the doors. Click here for a close-up of the tablet depiction. Click here for a picture of the entire door (the tablet depiction is the bottom circle).
It's interesting to note that the engraved circle embellishment is placed at eye level, while the 10 Commandment depiction is placed toward the bottom of the door in an out-of-the-way position. The Commandments are, of course, a perfectly logical artistic embellishment for a court of law but, given its placement, it doesn't appear that the artist has any special regard for the Commandments. Additionally, we note that the oak doors seem to be of little consequence as artistic creations. A search of the University of Louisville library turned up a number of books that discuss the architecture of the Supreme Court, and while all of them discuss the two pieces mentioned above, none of them mention the doors. It does not appear, in other words, that the doors are regarded very highly by scholars of art.
A Questionable Representation of the 10 Commandments:
Where are depictions of Moses and the 10 Commandments omitted?
Consider, for example, the North (front) entrance to the building. If there was any desire on the part of the artists to indicate a fundamental role for the 10 Commandments, this would be the place to do it, but the front of the building contains no references to Moses or to any other Biblical theme. Rather, one encounters two massive Roman-type sculptures representing "The Authority of Law" and "The Contemplation of Justice," a frieze depicting "Equal Justice Under Law," and a set of massive bronze doors that depict scenes from Greek, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon law. None of these are connected in any way to Biblical themes. Similarly, there are all sorts of artistic embellishments scattered throughout the main floor of the building, but none of them are obviously religious. Put simply, there is little in the Supreme Court Building that suggests any desire on the part of the artists to enshrine the 10 Commandments as the foundation of our law.
Finally, we note that not once are the actual words of the 10 Commandments reproduced in the Supreme Court building. One finds tablets, and sometimes these tablets have Roman numerals on them, but we never find the Commandments written out. If the intention of this art is to convey that the 10 Commandments are so important to our law, wouldn't it make sense for them to be reproduced in full at least once?