Writing on Hands: Memory and Knowledge in Early Modern Europe focuses on the hand as a meeting place of matter, mind, and spirit. More than eighty images, dating
primarily from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, concern the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge
from such diverse realms as anatomy, psychology, mathematics, music, rhetoric, religion, palmistry, and
alchemy. In addition, the exhibition addresses the relationship between the hand and the brain, sensory
perception, the rhetoric of gesture, early forms of finger-spelling for the deaf, morality, and spirituality. On
view are miniatures, prints, and drawings that are inscribed with, or surrounded by, natural
marks, such as lines or creases, or artificial ones, including letters, numbers, words, or symbols. In each the
inscribed hand serves as a visual prompt to the intellect or the memory of the viewer. Indeed, this exhibition
reintroduces early modern conceptual frameworks for learning, remembering, and recalling practical and
abstract concepts by means of the hand.
Claire Richter Sherman, curator of Writing on Hands, states that "throughout the exhibition, images of the hand play a vital role in interpreting the search for achieving
knowledge of the self and interpreting universal human experience."