The Story Behind "The Praying Hands"
Back in the fifteenth
century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, Germany, lived a family with eighteen
children, Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the
table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by
profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying
chores he could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless
condition, two of the elder children, Albrecht and Albert, had a dream.
They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that
their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg
to study at the Academy.
After many long discussions at night
in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. The 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 laboring in the mines.
They tossed a coin on a Sunday
morning after church. Albrecht Dürer won the toss and went off to
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, his woodcuts and
his 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
When the young artist returned to his
village, the Dürer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate
Albrecht's triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated
with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored 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, not it is your turn.
Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream. and I will take care of
All heads turned in eager
expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down
his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and
repeated, over and over, "No...no....no..no." Finally, Albert
rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table
at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he
said softly, "No, brother, I cannot go the 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
parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother....for me it is too
More than 450 years have passed.
By now, Albrecht Dürer's hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and
silver-point sketches, water colors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings
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 Dürer's works. More
than merely being familiar with, you very well may have a reproduction hanging
in your home or office.
One day, to pay homage to Albert for
all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Dürer 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."
The next time you see a copy of that
touching creation, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, that no one - no
one - ever makes it alone!
"The LORD bless you and
keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you' the LORD
turn his face toward you and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-26 NIV
This account was sent by email from a friend
in Ridgefield, Washington.
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