Tumblr has become my go-to place these days for discovering and browsing art, photography, and lots of other cool things. It’s a remarkably easy to use microblogging platform and if you follow the right people you can really enjoy yourself passing the time. My Tumblr page is “Meanderings”.
I happened upon this image of an Edouard Vuillard painting that caught my eye. It’s titled Seated Woman with Joined Hands, from the year 1916. I really like what Vuillard did here in terms of his palette, composition, and capturing of the subject’s presence. I tried to find out the identity of the sitter, as Vuillard used mostly friends and family members as his models. It’s very possible that this woman is his longtime mistress Lucy Hessel, but I can’t say with certainty. This is Lucy here. What do you think?
There is another reason why I studied this painting for a while; the clasped hands. In my earlier years as an art model I avoided putting my hands together, folded-style, for poses. Why? For one thing, I was so busy showing off my entire body and trying to be “exciting” that stodgy, old-fashioned hand-folding just wasn’t in the cards. It’s stupid, I know. Also, part of me just doesn’t like the gesture all that much. From a body language standpoint it can come across as stiff and guarded, putting up a “barrier” if you will. I also reasoned that since human hands are so expressive it seemed a shame to knot them together and hide the fingers. My paternal grandmother is seated with folded hands in almost every old family photo and I’ve never liked it. Just reminds me of her somewhat stern and less than warm personality.
But Vuillard’s depiction here works very well. The woman’s arm is leaning on the leg, like one would sit if casually talking. And if you zoom in to view the hands up close you can see that Vuillard used just a mess of short brushstrokes in darks and lights. Very nice. And by the way, you’ll all be happy to know that I have expanded my posing repertoire since the early days, so I do fold my hands now, albeit in small doses ;)
Some other artworks with folded hands. Compare and contrast these with Vuillard’s.
Girl With Folded Hands, Wilhelm Trubner, 1878:
Frans Hals, Portrait of a Middle-Aged Woman with Hands Folded, circa 1640:
Augustus Leopold Egg, A Girl with Clasped Hands