Germany, you sneak…

Being an art history major is pretty fun sometimes.  It turns movies like The Da Vinci Code into a comedy (except for the part where all the evil Vatican people are meeting in that giant wooden room, and there in the background is a super cool painting that’s been lost to history: The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio!  Someone in the props department did their homework 🙂

check out that awesome highlighting!

Anyway, it’s fun to see art pop up in weird places, especially when its used in bizarre ways.  Like all those rappers (and people in their entourage [what a catch! Check out “Xscape” last album cover, LOL) I see with that “praying hands” tattoo; do they have any idea of its origins?  I think they’re all under the impression that it’s just a set of thoroughly Christian hands (which is true).  But that’s not all… at all!

yes, that is the contemporary pope being eaten by a demon from hell in the lower left

Around 1500, a German Renaissance man named Albrecht Dürer was getting famous by freaking people out with his woodblock prints of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  He did a whole series of these, and they’re all pretty crazy.  He was a painter who established himself with these super scary prints and his fine technical abilities as an engraver.

Around 1507, he was commissioned to paint a triptych for some wealthy dude in Germany.  This was totally common at the time; rich people would commission paintings of saints and contemporary popes and shit to gain favor with THE LORD, and basically buy their way into heaven.  Hax.  Anyway, Dürer, like any good artist, did some sketches before dedicating himself to this project for two years.  One of the studies was of a pair of praying hands (“Betende Hände” in German) to be used on one of the guys in the painting who watches Jesus’ mom, Mary, get assumed into heaven (like a dust bunny into a Hoover).

the original

the original

Recently these hands have been used on some inexplicably non-sequitur stuff (skateboards and t-shirts come to mind).  But my favorite medium that these hands show up in has to be the loads of less-than-classy tattoos, often to demonstrate faith in Christianity (this guy keeps similar company), prayer for the death of one or many loved ones, belief in zombie Jesus, or that you might be a giant douche bag who has no clue that you’re wearing a sketch done by a Renaissance era German engraver.

These hands are so popular, they’re reproduced in just about every tacky medium you can think of: little gold pendants, creepy bronze statues, ugly crystal knick-knacks, and fucking mugs.

original image file name: gold-iced-out-rosary-cross-praying-hands-bead-necklace

What if one of Dürer’s other studies for that painting had skyrocketed to fame instead?  Like this one of some very pleasant looking feet.  Can’t you just picture those on your grandmother’s bookshelf under the “Footprints in the Sand” poster?

tickle tickle!

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About Toph Beifong

www.tigerlilytoph.com View all posts by Toph Beifong

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