This is the bronze art work by Auguste Rodin known as The Mighty Hand or Clenched Right Hand. This piece is part of the permanent exhibits in The Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
Let us view several images and then give some possible interpretations for this impressive and captivating work.
The informational plaque for this bronze work is seen here.
A view now from a little further back showing the entire bronze from the front. Are those fingers arthritic or cramped, or merely clenched? We can definitely see the work’s realism in the muscles and tendons visible in the palm.
Let us now go behind this piece and view it from the rear.
A rather stunning final view in this pic. I think the light or glare in this image is likely coming from a high intensity lamp in the gallery as the overcast sky outside was obscuring the sun’s light. We can also see the French Tri Color (flag) in the picture.
I recall a Philosophy of Art course taken while an undergraduate at university many years ago. From that class, we students learned that there are objective parameters for judging the beauty of a work of art, but the interpretation of art and the experience of beauty can be highly subjective for the individual person.
Here are some possible interpretations of the bronze work above (in no particular order of relevance or plausibility).
- There is no meaning. This might be likened to a “null set” in mathematics. Does every work of art have to have an intended meaning?
- The grasping or clenched hand is indicative or symbolic of a guilty conscience or of a painful memory that clings to us or clutches at us.
- The work points out our grasping at life, our desire to control life and the world around us.
- The bronze symbolizes the spirit of a deceased person seeking to hold us back or seeking revenge upon us. A rather haunting work that signifies a haunting presence from beyond the grave? In which case, the work could instill or provoke fear in us.
- The work might align with the idea of the hand of fate being upon us (didn’t Mick Jagger sing a song with the words “the hand of fate is on me now . . .”?).
- The work signifies some primal, atavistic urge or impulse . . . possibly to violence, and possibly from the deep sub-conscious mind.
Of course, all of the above possible interpretations, and any others that readers care to suggest, only illustrate that humans are quite capable of reading various meanings into works of art, symbols, things in nature, etc. A symbol can become quite powerful if a consensus on its meaning can be achieved for large numbers of people.
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