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The Praying Hands

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Everyone knows and instantly recognises the picture of the Praying Hands
- but not everyone is aware of the story behind the picture.

In the fifteenth century, in a village near Nuremberg, lived a goldsmith
who had eighteen children. His name was Albrecht Durer.

Two of the children were artistically talented and dreamed of going
to train and study in Nuremberg.
They both knew that their father would never be able to afford
to send them there and so they made a pact.
One brother would go to work in the nearby mines and support the other
during his four years of study.
At the end of that time they would change places if need be
- unless the the new artist could support them both through sales of his work!

They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church.
Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg
while Albert went down the mines.

Four years later when the young artist returned to his village
he was something of a success and the Durer family celebrated!

"And now, Albert, it is your turn.
Now you can go to Nuremberg, and I will take care of you."

Sadly Albert shook his head : "Look at my hands," he said,
" Every finger has been broken at one time on another
and now I have arthritis in my right hand.
I could not even hold a paintbrush, let alone do delicate work with it.
It is too late for me to go to Nuremberg."

And so Albrecht carefully drew his brother's hands
with all their scars - palms together and thin fingers pointing skyward.
He called his picture simply "Hands" - it was only later that it was re-named
"The Praying Hands".

Albrecht Durer's works can be seen in museums all over the world -
for even while he was studying his professors acknowledged that he was more talented than they were.
But among all that prolific collection of portraits, watercolours, oils,
wood cuts and copper engravings,
the work for which he is most remembered
is the drawing of his brother's workworn hands -
the hands that toiled so that he could become a great artist.

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