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Early Modern Hands: Gesture in the Work of Jan van Hemessen

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Chapter Summary

The re-presentation of a biblical story combined with the integral role of the viewer in engineering another layer of meaning during the act of viewing, connects this chapter to the complex theme of visual exegesis. In order to set the stage for better understanding Jan van Hemessen's unique portrayal of Christ Bearing the Cross, the chapter briefly discusses another example of the significant role and function of hands in the artist's oeuvre. Two of Hemessen's most popular subjects are the penitent St. Jerome, and the Calling of St. Matthew. Christ's hands act as prompts toward a shift in perspective, from persecution to praise, from death to life. The painting not only represents a spiritually enlightened Christ who makes music out of suffering, but it also trains viewers to do the same.

Keywords: Christ's hands; Jan van Hemessen; St. Jerome; visual exegesis

10.1163/9789004262010_011
/content/books/b9789004262010_011
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