Hands by Rodin

Portraits of emotion

Rodin explored the human figure’s expressive potential, or what has been termed the “body gesture.” This is the idea that it's not just a face that expresses a thought or a feeling. A hand, an arm, a torso... any of these fragments could express the feeling of the whole.

One thing that particularly fascinated Rodin, were hands....hands gesturing in anguish, small studies of hands pulsing with life. To Rodin, hands communicated as forcefully as the human face.

This emphatically modeled, dramatically gesturing hand—that both seeks and draws away, that clenches but cannot grasp—is one of Rodin’s most compelling depictions of powerless despair.

This hand was cast from a full-scale study for the sculpture The Burghers of Calais. The fingers and palm seem caught mid-movement, evoking the emotional complexity of the whole.

In this sculpture, Rodin presents Adam and Eve as evolving figures. They’re cradled delicately in God’s broad hand. It appears to create, shelter, and protect all at the same time.

It’s God’s hand holding Adam and Eve, but can also be read as that of an artist holding an unfinished work. Rodin seems to equate the generative hand of God with the ingenious hand of the sculptor.

While this particular hand wasn’t sculpted by Rodin, it pays tribute to his genius. His assistant, Paul Cruet made it shortly before Rodin’s death by taking a cast of his master’s hand and combining it with one of the artist’s sculptures of a small female torso.

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