• Stefano Della Bella: Feet, 1641; etching; 5 1/8 x 6 1/8 in.; BAMPFA, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Werner Z. Hirsch.

Five Tables of Feet and Hands

Feet and hands are notoriously difficult to draw, which may explain the popularity of Stefano Della Bella’s deft seventeenth-century etching of feet seen from a variety of angles—the inspiration for this month’s theme. Photographic feet come to the fore in Félix Bonfils’s nineteenth-century albumen print of the ceremony of washing feet in the court of the Holy Sepulchre, and Jack Birns captured revolutionary times in a 1940s Nanjing picture of a woman with bound feet waiting for a train. Issues of racial representation slip through the fingers of the illustrations  of an 1863 children’s book, Hand Shadow Stories, and beautiful women are gazed upon in an Indian painting of a lady perfuming her feet and Japanese woodblock prints of beauties with strikingly graceful hands.