Four studies of a right hand, Hendrick Goltzius
Hendrick Goltzius
Four studies of a right hand
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Hendrick Goltzius

Four studies of a right hand, ca. 1588 – 1589

309 x 207 mm
Physical Description
Black and red chalk, framing line (chalk?) on all sides, on slightly tinted ribbed laid paper
Inventory Number
Object Number
805 Z
Can be presented in the study room of the Graphische Sammlung (special opening hours)


About the Work

During the last two decades of the sixteenth century, Hendrick Goltzius, the draughtsman, copper engraver and painter who worked in Haarlem, became one of the most influential and famous artists in Europe as a result of the prints he created and published himself. 'Haarlem Mannerism' was defined by a brilliant graphic technique and an elaborate, highly stylised language of forms. This was the basis for the international success of the style, and Goltzius was its main representative.

'Four Studies of a Right Hand' was created in the first instance as a reference sheet to provide the artist and his staff with assistance when depicting hands, which, apart from the facial features, are the most expressive elements in portraits and figural representations. At the same time, however, it should also be seen as a masterful example of the art of drawing. Goltzius has created an almost hyper-realistic effect with just two different-coloured chalks. The coloured detailed working is three-dimensional and the anatomical accuracy is maintained even in physical details such as the prominent arteries - and is further heightened by its fragmentary nature and the contrast to the sleeves, which merge with the abstract surface of the paper. The stylised and "Manneristically" affected positions of the hands enhance the realism of how they are rendered.

Goltzius's hands had been crippled since childhood as a result of accidentally falling into glowing coals. His brilliant craftsmanship, which he was repeatedly able to demonstrate, greatly increased his fame and can be understood at least in part as a reaction to this disability. This drawing in the Städel's Collection of Prints and Drawings thus gains a special significance, given that the bottom hand of the four corresponds to the multiple pen-and-ink drawings Goltzius made of his crippled right hand: the fingers were curled inwards and he was unable to stretch them out. He seems, therefore, to have depicted his own hand in this drawing and to have sought a use for its disability. This he found while leafing through a book - that is to say, the top hand, which shows a relatively conventional gesture, portrays his right hand in an ideal state, without injury.

Work Data

Basic Information

Four studies of a right hand
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Black and red chalk, framing line (chalk?) on all sides, on slightly tinted ribbed laid paper
Geographic Reference
Production Reason
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Bezeichnet neben den Händen jeweils Minuskeln (mit roter Kreide, von oben nach unten): b / d / a / c
Captions Added Later
Bezeichnet unten links (von fremder Hand, mit schwarzer Kreide): HG [ligiert; stark berieben]; verso bezeichnet (mit Bleistift): H. Goltzius geb. Malbrecht 1558 / Obit Haarlem 1617 / di[scipel?] van Jacob Leonart; darunter eine Notiz (in alter Handschrift): [unleserlich; stark verblaßt/berieben]; unten links (mit der Feder in Braun): N. 20; Stempel des Städelschen Kunstinstituts, Frankfurt am Main (Lugt 2356)
  • Nicht vorhanden
Work Catalogues
  • Řezníček 1961.452.432

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
Public Domain

Work Content

Motifs and References


  • 31A2556 postures and gestures of index finger and middle finger
  • 49MM32 book - MM - book open

Research and Discussion


Object History
vlt. Verst. durch Hendrik de Winter, Amsterdam, 12. Januar 1761
Isaac Walraven (1686–1765), Amsterdam
Nachlass Walraven, 1765
Verst. durch Hendrik de Winter, Amsterdam, 14. Oktober 1765
Johann Friedrich Städel (1728–1816), Frankfurt am Main
Nachlass Johann Friedrich Städel, 1816.


Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.

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  • the date on which it changed hands

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