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Writing on Hands

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Writing on Hands: Memory and Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

December 13. 2000, through March 4, 2001

The hand, while universally familiar, is a novel subject for an exhibition. Vital to human experience, the hand is involved in touching, feeling, acting, writing, creating, thinking, counting, remembering, and speaking. In visual communication, the hand is a universal symbol able to convey and reveal different types of information essential to human activity.


From the earliest pictorial records to the present day, representations of the hand, independent of the body, present a wide array of imagery dealing with both the external/material/visible and internal/spiritual/invisible qualities of human existence. From the profuse array of available imagery, the exhibition focuses on representation of the hand inscribed with, or surrounded by, systems of graphic signs. The 70-80 works in the exhibition embrace such fields as anatomy, religion, philosophy, psychology, music theory, mathematics, literature, emblematics, and the occult sciences.


Lenders to the exhibition include The Folger Shakespeare Library, The Library of CongressThe College of Physicians of PhiladelphiaThe Pierpont Morgan LibraryThe Metropolitan MuseumNational Library of MedicineNational Gallery of Art, and The Walters Art Museum.


Claire Sherman, Curator

Bulwer. Chirologia. London, 1644.

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