“Praying Hands”

“Siblings”… this word brings up different experiences for different people, based on their past experiences, for better or for worse. I have only one sister and my childhood memories are woven with endless fights and naggings. I hadn’t expected it to ever cure, but fortunately, when we grew-up and established families the rivalry was replaced with dignity, respect and empathy. Even inheritance issues and looking after our elderly parents didn’t destroy the harmony. Relationships among siblings were always a complex issue, and we often read and hear about jealousy and hatred rather than boundless love and concessions. And as parents..? Will our kids ever understand the pain and misery we are going through when they fight? So, here is a small, different story that was sent to me by Batel, my daughter, about 2 brothers and one masterpiece:  

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children (!). In order to support this big family, the father, a goldsmith by profession, worked many hours  a day at his trade and any other paying chore.
Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of the children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to the Academy in Nuremberg.
After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by labouring in the mines.
They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht’s etchings, woodcuts and oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, Albrecht rose from his position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”
All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face. Finally, Albert rose, glanced down at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look… look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother … for me it is too late.”
More than 500 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer’s hundreds of masterful art works hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer’s works. One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands,” but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love “The Praying Hands.”

I’m not an expert in arts and before reading this story I hadn’t heard about Albrecht Durer. It turns out that he was a German artist during the 15th century who was regarded as one of the greatest painters and etching artists in the German renaissance. His painting “Hands” is a masterpiece. I checked on the internet and it seems that this story is more of an urban legend than a true story. Be it truth or fiction,  I thought that in the world of wrangling within siblings, like it use to be for me, it is touching to see such acts of concession among siblings, even though it was a result of flipping a coin…  

Dedicated to my sister to whom I didn’t do many concessions…  

Fireworks (64)
Shuka, From Berlin, Germany,
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
(See photos in the blog)



Albrecht Durer - Self portrait

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Folded hands hold such power and can mean so many different things to different people, at different times.

*Namaste* I fold my hands in respect to your blog.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.


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