The Hand of God

Artist: Auguste Rodin (French, Paris 1840–1917 Meudon)

Date: modeled ca. 1896–1902, commissioned 1906, carved ca. 1907

Culture: French

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: confirmed: 29 × 23 3/4 × 25 1/4 in., 508 lb. (73.7 × 60.3 × 64.1 cm, 230.4 kg)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of Edward D. Adams, 1908

Accession Number: 08.210


Rodin was fascinated by the expressive possibilities of hands: anguished, gesturing hands, as in The Burghers of Calais; small studies of hands pulsing with life; giant, enigmatic hands sufficient unto themselves. Toward the end of his career, Rodin began to use giant hands in a series of completely original and idiosyncratic arrangements, with titles such as The Hand of God, The Hand of the Devil (1903), The Cathedral (1908), and The Secret (about 1910).

The first of these represents divine creation expressed in terms of the sculptor's art: the rough stone is both primeval matter and the sculptor's medium; the smooth, white, emerging forms held by the hand are the bodies of the first man and woman, while the great, life-giving hand itself is a symbol of the original Creator, and perhaps quite literally, of the sculptor, as well.

The Hand of God has had a wide appeal, and there are numerous versions of it, both in marble and in bronze. This marble was commissioned from Rodin in 1906 by one of The Metropolitan Museum's Trustees.