Hands by Rodin

Portraits of emotion

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pierre de Wiessant Pierre de Wiessant (modeled 1885, cast ca. 1900–1907) by Auguste Rodin|Alexis RudierThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

Study of a hand (1875/1915) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

The Clenched Left Hand (Study for Hand of Pierre de Wiessant) The Clenched Left Hand (Study for Hand of Pierre de Wiessant) (modeled ca. 1885, cast 1974) by Auguste Rodin|Georges RudierThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

Study of a Hand (1880/1912) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

The Hand of God (modeled ca. 1896–1902, carved ca. 1907) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

The Hand of God The Hand of God (modeled ca. 1896–1902, carved ca. 1907) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

The Hand of Rodin The Hand of Rodin (1917) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

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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