The Finger: A Handbook

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9780374154981: The Finger: A Handbook

FROM THE AUTHOR OF A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SMILE, A COMPLETE INDEX OF THE DIGIT

In this collision between art and science, history and pop culture, the acclaimed art historian Angus Trumble examines the finger from every possible angle. His inquiries into its representation in art take us from Buddhist statues in Kyoto to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, from cave art to Picasso’s Guernica, from Van Dyck’s and Rubens’s winning ways with gloves to the longstanding French taste for tapering digits. But Trumble also asks intriguing questions about the finger in general: How do fingers work, and why do most of us have five on each hand? Why do we bite our nails?

This witty, odd, and fascinating book is filled with diverse anecdotes about the silent language of gesture, the game of love, the spinning of balls, superstitions relating to the severed fingers of thieves, and systems of computation that were used on wharves and in shops, markets, granaries, and warehouses throughout the ancient Roman world. Side by side with historical discussions of rings and gloves and nail polish are meditations on the finger’s essential role in writing, speech, sports, crime, law, sex, worhsip, memory, scratching politely at eighteenth-century French doors (instead of crudely knocking), or merely satisfying an itch—and, of course, in the eponymous show of contempt.

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About the Author:

Angus Trumble is the youngest of four brothers and was born and raised in Victoria, Australia. He is a graduate of the University of Melbourne, and of New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, where he was a Fulbright Scholar in 1994–95. From 1996 to 2001 he was Curator of European Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, and since 2003 has been Senior Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut.

From Publishers Weekly:

Trumble (A Brief History of the Smile), curator of paintings and sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art, blends art history, anatomy, and etymology in this analysis of finger lore that originated as a lecture to Australian orthopedic surgeons. Contrary to the OED, Trumble contends that the thumb is a finger. In the fraught world of human relationships, he says, the handshake is indispensable, and a proper one must include the enclosing clasp of the thumb. Queen Elizabeth I owned hundreds of pairs of gloves and gave gloves as gifts in a sophisticated diplomatic game; in portraying his right hand expensively gloved in a self-portrait, Rubens was affirming his rank; and Eleanor Roosevelt was the first first lady to wear colored nail polish. Trumble enumerates the necessities of fingers: they are indispensable in playing the violin and in sex; ancient Romans could count to one million using their 10 digits; babies' discovery of pointing with the index finger as a means of getting attention seems partly innate. This prodigiously researched work offers many gold nuggets of wisdom to a rarefied audience, though it's verbose and esoteric in the extreme. 22 b&w illus. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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