Hand in Hand

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:

(c) The National Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Augustus Leopold Egg, A Girl with Clasped Hands 

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

8 thoughts on “Hand in Hand

  1. Alan Appel says:

    Now I’m hooked on Tumblr. Love the Vuillard.

  2. caseyklahn says:

    Hi, Claudia! I am writing you from Helsinki – how cool is that?
    The image is certainly Lucy, and what strikes me @ all of these is that their faces are “folded” in a manner. Very fascinating – except for the one by Egg. It becomes my favorite because of this.
    I am sketching the city and cafe culture here, and this post is timely to see – gives me ideas.

    • artmodel says:


      Greetings to you over in Finland! Sounds like you’re having a wonderful time 🙂

      Thanks for confirming Lucy as the model. Based on the photos it sure seemed like a match. You make an interesting observation about the faces. I’m taking a second look at them now.

      Also, I forgot to post a Bonnard painting in this post! Can’t believe I saved the damn thing and then left it out. Grr. Anyway, here it is for you and all readers to consider along with the others:

      Thanks for commenting. Great to hear from you!


  3. Bill says:

    You models with your expressive hands drive me absolutely crazy! 🙂

    One of my groups used to have a model who eventually retired to become a masseuse. Oh, the hands — two minute poses, with these beautiful hand/finger gestures that I couldn’t begin to capture in an hour. I think that you people do it deliberately — just to drive us crazy! Well, in my case, more crazy. . .:-)

    Seriously, though, folded hands are also just fine — there are usually relationships among all those fingers that are well worth exploring.

    BTW — I’d be glad to endorse/recommend Meanderings. Your selections always brighten my day.

    • artmodel says:


      Of course we do it deliberately! Driving artists crazy is all part of the fun 😉
      I’ve been told I have nice hands which is a lovely compliment. I try to make expressive gestures.

      Thanks for your endorsement of Meanderings. Yeah, it’s enjoyable because you feel like an amateur curator or collector. I don’t necessarily love every single thing I blog/repost but may just find it unusual or interesting or strange. Besides painting and drawing, there’s really great photography to be found on Tumblr.

      Thanks Bill!


      • Dave says:

        Great post, Claudia!

        In the hundreds of poses I’ve done, I’m pretty sure I have never once done the clasped hands thing. Like you, I’ve worried that it seems like a cold or distant gesture, and it deprives the artists of the opportunity to draw my fingers. But, thanks to this post, I pledge to give clasped hands a shot next time I’m on the stand (sadly, not until next month).


        • artmodel says:


          I hear you about “next month”. August is the single worst month of the year for art modeling. So don’t feel bad. I have hardly any gigs; just a couple of private sessions and a small art group in Chelsea on Wednesday nights.

          Yes, try to incorporate the clasped hands in poses. Many artists really do seem to like it.

          Glad you liked the post and thanks for commenting! Good to hear from you 🙂


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