A Show of Hands: Drawings from The Huntington's Art Collections, 1600-1900

Feb. 23-June 17, 2013 Huntington Art Gallery, Works on Paper Room
Charles West Cope, Study for Fresco in Peers' Corridor, 1858. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Physically complex and supremely expressive, hands are, notoriously, the most difficult element of a figural subject to portray successfully. Because of this, artists often spend a considerable amount of time sketching hands, working through the descriptive and compositional challenges this portion of the human anatomy presents before embarking upon a final image.


Giovanni Battista Cipriani, Study of a Hand, n.d. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The works in this exhibition—studies and sketches spanning nearly three centuries—provide glimpses into how artists such as Peter Lely, Charles West Cope, and David Wilkie attempted to capture the emotive force of the human hand. “A Show of Hands” focuses on approximately 15 European works from The Huntington’s permanent collection ranging from meticulous studies of a single hand, each vein and shadow fully wrought, to multiple sketches quickly rendered in a burst of inspiration. Though separated from their bodies, the hands in these images articulate individual personas, inviting reflection on the character, vocation, and attitude of their subjects.


About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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