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Location: Museum of Fine Arts (Ulica kralja Tomislava 15, 21000 Split)


curated by Iris Slade

Duration: May 18 – July 2, 2023


Thematic exhibitions are a common format, regardless of the type, scope, or complexity of exhibits. In the visual arts, it has been confirmed by practice that every segment of a work of art or activity can be an object of interest and become a selective factor. In the real or virtual worlds, we often visit exhibitions that extract their specific themes from the thematic, motivic, or artistic content of the works on display. The exhibition In Praise of the Hand focuses on the depiction of hands in art. Drawn, painted, or executed in graphic techniques, they are an important detail of each of the twenty figural compositions from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts. As these come from different artists, the theme of the exhibition is not only the said motif of hands, but also its interpretation, as artists leave a recognizable signature in the way they depict hands.


The theme of the exhibition was inspired by Henri Focillon’s essay “Éloge de la main” (In Praise of the Hand) in his book Vie des formes (The Life of Forms), first published in 1934. Focillon’s essay is a stunning panegyric to the hand, which enabled man to become what he is in the fullness of his activity. Consistent with his profession as an art historian, the author mainly considered the role of hands in artworks, but their importance has been recognized since the age of cave paintings. The palm imprints of our distant ancestors are their most immediate artificial traces of presence and their identification signs. Throughout history, hands have been crucial in manifesting artistic expression, the reach of which has been largely reflected in the interpretation of that specific part of the human body, whether as an independent motif or a detail in figurative representation. Among the many masterful realizations, one should recall some of the most famous examples, such as Dürer’s drawing of Hands in Prayer, which has been reproduced countless times, the detail with God’s and Adam’s hands in Michelangelo’s fresco The Creation of Adam, the subtly painted, folded hands of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, and the exquisitely shaped and positioned hands of Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker.


Twenty works of art – paintings, drawings, graphics, and caricatures, mostly by prominent Croatian modern artists – have been selected from the museum collection for the exhibition: Portrait of Frane Bollani (1884) by Vlaho Bukovac, Saint Jerome (study, to 1901) by Mato Celestin Medović, Caricature of Josip Hatze (ca. 1910) by Emanuel Vidović, Russian Ballet (1912) by Miroslav Kraljević, Portrait of Ljubo Wiesner (1916) by Ljubo Babić, Portrait of Ivo Ćipiko (1917) by Vladimir Becić, Portrait of Noe Matošić (1917) by Silvije Bonacci Čiko, Wandering Scholar, or Portrait of J. Matošić (1919) by Jerolim Miše, Girl with a Lute (1920) by Ivan Meštrović, Portrait of Danko Anđelinović (1920) by Marino Tartaglia, caricature “Nestor in Retirement” – Ivan Rendić (1922) by Angjeo Uvodić, The Kiss (1923) by Tomislav Krizman, At the Table (1923) by Marijan Trepše, Guarding the Crops (1925) by Juraj Plančić, Female Nude (1927) by Antun Augustinčić, At the Theatre (1927) by Vjekoslav Parać, Self-Portrait with a Red Scarf (1930) by Cata Gattin-Dujšin (Dujšin-Ribar), Fight in the Tavern (1932) by Ignjat Job, Comedians (1935) by Vilim Svečnjak, and Party Liners (1939) by Antun Zuppa (Zupa).


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