Goltzius’ Right Hand: A Strange Fascination

Goltzius' Right Hand, Hendrik Goltzius, 1588, pen and brown ink

After a very long hiatus of blogging, I’m back. I hope you all enjoy the new look – I needed a change of scenery.

This semester I’m taking a class called “European Art from 1500 – 1850”, which essentially covers the Renaissance and various movements that began after it (my favorite being the rococo period in France – the women looked like cupcakes). My professor is particularly interested in print-making, and on the first day of class she presented us with this image.

Take a good, hard look. Just look.

Okay, now let me explain. This is a print by Hendrik Goltzius, a Dutch printmaker who worked in the 16th century. He was born with a malformed right hand, which normally would hinder such incredible artistic ability. However, Goltzius not only thrived as an artist, he was amazing. Look at this! The  lines, the curves, the incredible attention to detail – this is masterful work, and he wants us to know it.

Farnese Hercules, Hendrik Goltzius, ca. 1592: I love he brings your eye straight to his butt, it's like he wants us to giggle a little. And I do. Every time.

This itself is a representation of his deformed right hand that should have stopped him from making such beautiful art, but he instead shows it off, detailing it with such beauty that we can’t help but be drawn, fascinated, and intrigued by it. He says, “Not only can I do what you do with this hand, but I can do it better.” Incredible.

And there’s something about this print that I am just so drawn to – when I first saw it, I thought it was cover art for some indie band’s album. It’s so visually striking, so interesting, and so unbelievably well done. I’m just in love – and I love his message: you can do anything, and often it’s our “deformities” that make us beautiful, so why not show them off?

 

For more information, check out the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History at the Met Museum’s website: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/golt/hd_golt.htm