Dürer, Albrecht - VM - Francis Méan
Albrecht Dürer: Praying Hands
by Francis Méan
Art is made by hands. But the hand is not always the willing servant of the mind. It searches, attempts, edges its way through all kinds of adventures. It tries its luck. The hand is action, it takes, it gives, it reveals. Sometimes it seems as if it thinks.
Many artists have devoted their attention to the study of hands, from Rembrandt to Picasso. Henry Moore said: ‘The only worthwhile self-portrait is a portrait of the hands.’ Rodin drew very fast so that his hand would not be led by his head and could work in all freedom.
There are also cowardly hands, such as those of Pilate who washed his hands and in this way sentenced an innocent man to the cross. Happily there are also hands of hope and opened hands – a universal symbol for hospitality.
And then there are probably the most well-known hands of all: the praying hands by Dürer. The great Christian humanist Erasmus said about him: ‘An artist as he is deserves to never die.’ Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) is considered the greatest German artist. He left behind a large number of artworks. He was influenced by Luther and the Reformation and his work reflects his deep faith. Someone wrote that he ‘was praised by everyone who knew him, because he was honest and lived in a Christian way.’
Dürer encouraged the end of the religious battles that divided his home town of Nuremberg in two camps. Look at those hands! Even though they stem from an earlier period in his life, are they not an artistic testimony to the willingness to beg God to end fighting, so that one would embrace an authentic faith free from all hatred?
Look at these gnarled fingers that rise up and close themselves as to form a gothic arch. Is this not the first step to conquer temporary, transitory and ideological boundaries and go forward to the essence, to an encounter with the Creator of all things?
Albrecht Dürer: Praying Hands, 1508, 20 x 29 cm, Vienna, Albertina. It is a study for the hands of an apostle for the Heller Altarpiece commissioned by Jacob Heller of Frankfurt. The altarpiece was destroyed in a fire in 1729 and is known today from a copy.
Francis Méan (b. 1952) studied at l’Institut Supérieur des Beaux Arts St Luc à Liège, and started his career in 1977 after he received the Prix Philippe d’Arschot. His work became known internationally through exhibitions in France, Germany, Netherlands, Luxemburg, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Canada and the United States. In 1989 he made the decoration for the new Sheraton Hotel in Malmö (Sweden) and a triptych for the ING headquarter in Antwerp. He made biblical illustrations for the editions Plantijn in Antwerp. His art can be found in museums, private collections and business offices in Belgium and abroad. The Dutch (1991) and Belgian (2007) Broadcasting companies both made a program about his work. He has published several sets of etchings: The Seven Days of Creation, Eden, The Four Seasons, The Ten Commandments, Job. One of his paintings was offered to King Albert from Belgium and a watercolour to Princess Astrid. After a career as painter and etcher he now makes mostly bronze sculptures. www.mean.be
Francis appears weekly on television to talk about faith and art and to discuss works of art for the French Christian television program ZeMag (http://www.zebuzztv.com). He lectures and gives workshops about art and art history.
ArtWay Visual Meditation January 30, 2011