PRAYING HANDS
(The Story Behind the Picture of the Praying Hands)

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, 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 chore he could find in the neighborhood.

Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer's children
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.  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 laboring in the mines.

They tossed a coin on a 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, 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 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, 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, 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, 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 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 parchment
or canvas with a pen or a brush.  No, brother for me it is too late."

More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer's hundreds of
masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, 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 Durer's works.  More than merely being familiar with it, 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
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."

The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look.  
Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one - no one - ever
makes it alone.  
Praying Hands