Hands in Art

Hands in Art
We often see the hand of God in Christian art, as well as in Buddhism. I will discuss the significance of gesturing with the left or right hand, as well as non-religious usage.

The hands of humans and virtually most primates use their hands to gesture, touch, hug, and groom others without much conscious thought. The flip side of the coin is when humans use their hands for battle or harm.

In the Western culture, the left hand is associated with weakness and the female. [Wait! I'm a lefty.] The right hand represents action, logic, and the male.

Genetically speaking, researchers have found that both sides of the brain of left-handed people communicate more effectively than those who are right-handed.
Hand stencils can be seen as far back as cave art. It is believed to be a form of sign language or ritual.

In art, the left hand represents justice, whereas the gesture of the right hand is that of a blessing.

From the Book of Genesis in the Bible, God gives life to Adam with the touch of his right hand. The hand of God represents hope and a guiding light.

Michelangelo's fresco "The Creation of Adam" (1508-1512) on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel depicts the eventual miracle.

Michelangelo's last painting is thought to be "Salvador Mundi" or "Savior of the World" (1499-1510). It shows God raising His right hand in a blessing.
From the Bible in Isaiah 41:10 God said, "I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Leonardo da Vinci's "Saint John the Baptist" (1513-1516) is believed to be his last painting. The saint's finger points to heaven, a warning of the coming of Christ.

In Himalayan Buddhism, Avalokitesvara (Bodhisattva of Compassion) has a thousand arms because she reached out for the many and her arms split into 1,000 pieces.

In Buddhist art, if the palm of the hand is held upward, facing outward, it signifies teaching or reassurance. If the palm of the hand faces downward, it signifies generosity.

In Cambodian art, the sculpture "Kneeling Female Deity" shows a goddess with her hands above her head in a diamond shape for adoration.

The pen and ink drawing "Praying Hands" (1508) from the Albertina, Vienna, by German artist Albrecht Durer is known worldwide. Copies may be found in many Christian homes.

The first photoshoot by American photographer Alfred Stieglitz of the American artist Georgia O'Keeffe was a portrait of her hands, not her face. They would eventually wed.

Stieglitz most admired O'Keeffe's hands for creating her paintings. Some 300+ black and white photographs were taken from 1917-1937 and comprise the group "Georgia O'Keeffe (Hands)". Simply stated.


"Salvador Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.




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This content was written by Camille Gizzarelli. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Camille Gizzarelli for details.