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.
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”.
The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.
Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:
The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.
Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.
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