This is a song by Devo from the album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and is an irreverant poke at organized religion, of which the guys in Devo are not fans (they prefer the disorganized religion of the Church of the SubGenius). The song is seemly taken from an earlier church hymm - much like their unreleased (except on Recombo DNA) track "I Saw Jesus" which is about seeing Jesus at various places and then having gay sex with him - the latter part I'm pretty sure Devo added. This song, like many of Devo's songs, appears to be mainly about frustrated masturbation.

The "Praying Hands" refer to the symbol of disembodied floating hands clasped in prayer. This is a common Christian symbol and is represented in bronze at the Oral Roberts University. The statue at the main entrance of the school was cast in Juarez, Mexico and at the time (1980) was the largest bronzework in the world. Today it has the glory of just being gigantic and ugly.

    Here, when Art was still religion, with a simple, reverent heart,
    Lived and labored Albrecht Durer, the Evangelist of Art.
    -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nuremberg

The most frequently duplicated and renown work of the German Reformation artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) is the gray and white brush drawing on blue-grounded paper entitled the Hands of the Apostle or more commonly called The Praying Hands. The drawing is 290 x 197 mm and is currently located at the Graphische Sammlung in Albertina, Vienna. The symbol of the praying hands was created in 1508 for a work of art commissioned in oil for an altar piece.

    This 1508 sketch,” writes one historian, “was a preliminary study for an altarpiece commissioned by Jakob Heller (1460-1522), a wealthy merchant, member of the town council, and mayor of Frankfurt.

    Dürer finished the sketch in detail, to be copied exactly in the final painting of the altarpiece Only the central panel depicting The Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin was executed by Dürer himself. Dürer worked for 13 months on the final painting, determined to make it so sound and beautiful "that it will remain bright and fresh for five hundred years."

A century later The Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin was purchased by Maximilian of Bavaria. Unfortunately it was destroyed in a fire in 1729 however a copy survived along with the sketches that Dürer prepared and fitted together as he worked to lay the groundwork for the final work. It’s for this reason that the Praying Hands exist today. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in particular, many replicas of the Praying Hands graced the walls of middle-class homes as an embodiment and symbol of German piety.

Widely known for his paintings drawings, prints and theoretical writings on art Albrecht Dürer exerted a profound effect on 16th century artists in his own country and in the Lowlands. The artist was exceptional among his colleagues in that he did a vast number of studies of himself in the form of self-portraits, sketches of his hands and legs, drawings and highly refined portrait paintings. Not until Rembrandt would there be another artist who studied himself with such a painstaking and unsparing eye. He produced a large body of devotional work including two cycles of woodcuts depicting the passion of Christ and a life of the Virgin Mary; both were favorite themes of Dürer. Born in Nuremberg by the time he reached his mid thirties he was living in Italy where he met Giovanni Bellini and many other well known artists. Much of his work contains elements of that reflect their influences. His work possesses a passionate quality, viewers can almost feel the weight of an awareness probing into the inner truth of his subject; it is this inwardness that captivated Dürer, an awareness that is enclosed by the outer form and illuminated from within.

A scan of Dürer’s original Praying Hands can be found at:
http://www.artchive.com/artchive/d/durer/duerer_praying_hands.jpg

An interesting but unverified legend that accompanies the piece tells that Dürer sketched the crippled and worn hands of his brother who had sacrificed his artistic aspirations to work in the mines for four years to support Dürer’s training in art.

Sources:

Albrecht Dürer:
trushare.com/93FEB03/FE03GARD.htm
Accessed September 9, 2005

Albrecht Dürer and The Praying Hands
www.barefootsworld.net/albrechtdurer.html
Accessed September 9, 2005

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, " Dürer,Albrecht." Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

Praying Hands:
webspinners.futura.net/zumaltsp/prayhands.html
Accessed September 9, 2005

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