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The Hand in Art: The Hand Was First in Art

  • Shafic Sraj
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author: Shafic Sraj, MD, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, Weston Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center, 29 Hospital Plaza, Suite C, Weston, WV 26452.
    Affiliations
    Weston Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, Weston, WV
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      The human hand has been the subject of many famous artistic works across the ages.
      • Chang K.R.
      • Hegmann S.M.
      • Hasel M.L.
      • et al.
      The Hand in Art: Reconstructing a Hand of Rodin.
      This interest in the hand form dates as far back as the early prehistoric ages. Findings of art depicting hands has been documented and preserved in multiple locations in South America, Asia, and Europe.
      • Pike W.G.
      • Hoffmann D.L.
      • García-Diez M.
      • et al.
      U-series dating of Paleolithic art in 11 caves in Spain.

      Hand Paintings and Symbols In Rock Art Around The World. Available at: http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/hands/. Accessed October 17, 2014.

      These are typically a form of cave art, made by placing a hand on the wall of the cave, and blowing pigment at it, forming a characteristic uncolored (negative) image of the hand surrounded by the pigment (Fig. 1). The painting may then be decorated with lines or dashes.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1Hands at the Cuevas de las Manos (The Cave of Hands), Santa Cruz Province, Argentina.
      (Copyright © 2005 Mariano Cecowski. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)
      The exact purpose of these paintings is not known; some findings suggest they were not merely decorations, and may have had a religious or ceremonial purpose. Some of the paintings depict amputated fingers.

      Hand Paintings and Symbols In Rock Art Around The World. Available at: http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/hands/. Accessed October 17, 2014.

      Until recently, the earliest known forms of cave art were thought to be found in Spain, where determinations were made for “minimum ages of 40.8 thousand years for a red disk,” and “37.3 thousand years for a hand stencil”.
      • Pike W.G.
      • Hoffmann D.L.
      • García-Diez M.
      • et al.
      U-series dating of Paleolithic art in 11 caves in Spain.
      In October 2014, a discovery of a hand stencil was announced—it was 39,900 years old at a minimum, which made it the oldest hand stencil in the world and possibly the oldest figurative depiction of art in the history of mankind.
      • Aubert M.
      • Brumm A.
      • Ramli M.
      • Sutikna T.
      • et al.
      Pleistocene cave art from Sulawesi, Indonesia.
      To date, close to 2,000 such hands have been discovered worldwide, including around 1,500 stencils in one series of 30 caves in Borneo, Indonesia.
      • Fage L.
      Hands across time: exploring the rock art of Borneo.

      References

        • Chang K.R.
        • Hegmann S.M.
        • Hasel M.L.
        • et al.
        The Hand in Art: Reconstructing a Hand of Rodin.
        J Hand Surg Am. 2014; 39: 1395-1396
        • Pike W.G.
        • Hoffmann D.L.
        • García-Diez M.
        • et al.
        U-series dating of Paleolithic art in 11 caves in Spain.
        Science. 2012; 336: 1409-1413
      1. Hand Paintings and Symbols In Rock Art Around The World. Available at: http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/hands/. Accessed October 17, 2014.

        • Aubert M.
        • Brumm A.
        • Ramli M.
        • Sutikna T.
        • et al.
        Pleistocene cave art from Sulawesi, Indonesia.
        Nature. 2014; 514: 223-227
        • Fage L.
        Hands across time: exploring the rock art of Borneo.
        National Geographic. 2005; 208: 44-45