A Show of Hands

The hand of Michelangelo's David, © Accademia

It all started with David.

Michelangelo’s statue of David was one of the first pieces of sculpture that I knew I had to see in person. Recognized worldwide as a symbol of Florence, David is marble come to life especially when you look at his hands. My European Art History professor many years ago urged us to study David’s hands — tense, veiny, and with visible knuckles and creases.

Ever since falling in love with David, I have developed a mini-obsession with men’s hands (of the marble and human variety). Are you a male sitting across from me on the tram idly glancing at your phone or reading a book? I’ve probably admired your hands (or found fault with them — sorry, but your cuticles are a wreck!).

Luckily, Rome has given me other opportunities to observe men’s hands without feeling like a creep. The Vatican Museums and the Capitoline Museums both house countless classical statues from Ancient Rome and Greece. It’s in fact likely that the artists who taught Michelangelo how to sculpt were familiar with and inspired by some of the ancient statuary now housed in these museums.

It was with this in mind that I recently decided to capture these intimate details as I visited both museums. I confess that I did not stop to note the names and dates and provenances of each of these sculptures. My aim was to find as many different hands, grips, and props as I could to see how the masculine hand has been portrayed in stone over the centuries.

So, if you will, please enjoy this show of hands, which are presented in no particular order.

© Melanie Renzulli
© Melanie Renzulli

That’s the hand of the Dying Gaul (or Galatian), one of the most famous sculptures in the Capitoline Museums. It is an Ancient Roman copy of a Hellenistic original from the 3rd century BC.

© Melanie Renzulli
© Melanie Renzulli

These hands need to be cleaned. But they’re nice and expressive.

© Melanie Renzulli
© Melanie Renzulli

Nice study of the fingers…

© Melanie Renzulli
© Melanie Renzulli

He’s holding a tablet. This sculptor could have used Michelangelo’s talent for creating veiny hands.

© Melanie Renzulli
© Melanie Renzulli

Is that some kind of branch? Maybe he’s waiting to run in a relay race? I’m impressed by how the small bones of the hands are visible beneath this statue’s “skin”.

© Melanie Renzulli
© Melanie Renzulli

Focus on the hand…

© Melanie Renzulli
© Melanie Renzulli

I SAID FOCUS ON THE HANDS!

© Melanie Renzulli
© Melanie Renzulli

WHEW. Nice shield, buddy.

 

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