A Massive and Elegantly carved Wooden sculpture of a Lady’s gloved hand

Possibly French. Second Half Of The Nineteenth Century.


Height:. 33" (83.8 cm); Diameter: 9" (22.9 cm).

Of carved wood.

The present sculpture is a most unusual and exceptionally large-scale representation of a lady’s hand. Its elegance and grace derives from the positions of the fingers, arranged in a delicate touch or reach, conveyed even at its impressive scale. Such unique treatment was commonplace in painting, however, “few sculptors were capable of arranging fingers in such a way.”

The present piece is fashioned as a very delicately gloved hand; the back is carved with three tapering seams; a seam surrounding the thumb is also visible. The fineness of the glove is indicated by the fact that the fingernails appear faintly through the ‘material’. The glove is adorned to the wrist in a buttoned cuff with ruffle, of a style dating from the mid-nineteenth century in which sleeves were fitted at the forearm with an infinite variety of decorative treatments at the cuffs. 

Gloves were a versatile accessory for customizing a lady’s wardrobe. Worn often for the purposes of modesty, this fashion requirement also symbolized a woman’s social status. As with other arts and textiles, the French were the arbiters of fashion and “the truth of the matter was, French glovemakers early had won the first place in Europe,” with Grenoble in particular “being, most distinctively, the glove city of the world.”

The scale of the present sculpture suggests that its purpose was likely commercial, made to attract customers through the shop window of a glover or other purveyor of fine accessories, and is a remarkable survival from the nineteenth century, when many of the conventions in the modern retail environment we would recognize today were developed. It is representative of the inventiveness and skill that went into creating retail spaces at this time, including the extensive use of fine decorative painting, ironwork, and sculpture in creating eye-catching signs and displays.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.