The Joy of Museums

Finding Beauty & Meaning in Museums

The Hand of God

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“The Hand of God” was modelled by Auguste Rodin and attempts to compare the art of sculpture to the divine process of creation. A large right hand, emerging from the earth, holds a lump of earth or clay, from which two struggling emergent figures, Adam and Eve, have been modelled.

The work presents Adam and Eve entwined in a fetal position and emerging from a lump of earth cradled in God’s hand. Rodin said “When God created the world, it is modelling, he must have thought …”.  In this masterpiece, Rodin depicts this metaphor. God’s hand cradles the earth in which male and female emerge.

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There is also marble versions of “The Hand of God” by Rodin which makes use of both the technical and allegorical aspects of marble. The material plays a key role in the sculpture, especially the underworked and roughly chiselled portions. During a trip to Italy in 1876, Rodin had explored the works by Michelangelo in which the figures similarly materialize out of rough stone, symbolising the process of artistic creation.

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More evident in the marble sculpture than the bronze casting of this piece, the contrast between the highly polished areas and the rough rock, also the posture of the woman recalls the works of other sculpture masters such as Michelangelo. For Michelangelo, a sculpture was buried in the marble and had to be extracted through the sculptor’s skill. Rodin was a modeller, with a different approach. The Hand of God seems to be paying homage to both of these two methods. The symbolistic title of this piece links it to a whole series of works made during the 1890s, such as The Cathedral.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                     The Hand of God
  • Year:                     Modelled in clay 1898; cast in bronze 1925
  • Place of Origin:   France
  • Material:              Bronze Casting
  • Dimensions:        26 3/4 x 17 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches (67.9 x 44.4 x 54.6 cm)
  • Museum:              Rodin Museum, Philadelphia

Artist Essential Facts:

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“I invent nothing, I rediscover.” Auguste Rodin

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Photo Credit: By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons