Wednesday, 18 September 2019


I really like the strong shape of this Ancient Greek bronze hand I came across in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe. Whether it's a fragment of some statue, or a stand-alone (hand-alone?) device for warding off the Evil Eye, I'm not sure. Whatever it is, I'm fairly certain it's a male left hand, which adds to its attraction for me, being both male and left-handed. Do try to ignore the unfortunate shadows behind, which rather resemble another well-known and ancient apotropaic device.

A primary motive for me in visiting such museums is to gather potential material like this for use in photo-collages and digital imaging. I knew as soon as I saw it that this this hand was destined to figure in my work: like Cycladic figurines, it is simultaneously ancient and incredibly modern in the elegant refinement of its abstraction. Quite often, the first thing I do with a single strong shape like this is to multiply it into a repeated pattern, something which will come in handy for backgrounds, and so on. Such as this:

I'm actually quite pleased with that as it stands. It's got something of the rhythmic liveliness and graphic simplicity of the quilts I saw in Bath's American Museum last year. Although it's a little deflating to realise that one's true vocation might have been designing upmarket bed-linen.

Incidentally, it always amuses me that the German word for a mobile phone is ein Handy. Which, according to Duden, is actually derived from the English word "handy" (zu englisch handy = griffbereit, greifbar; praktisch [1]), and is not, as I had assumed, some cute diminutive coinage derived from the German word for hand, which also happens to be Hand. I'm glad it's not: if there's one thing that brings out my inner Grumpy Old Man, it's people who babble like five-year-olds about "biccies" and "veggies" and all those other infantilising attempts to render a cold, cruel world into a cosy safe-space, where besties in onesies can coo over their latest selfies... Hmm, but on the other hand maybe there is a market for my exclusive line of apotropaic duvet covers...

Hotel Wagner im Dammtorpalais (highly recommended)

1. "From English 'handy' = ready to hand, graspable; practical."


Your Name Here said...

So, whose picture is that on the wall over your bed in the Hotel Wagner im Dammtorpalais?

Mike C. said...

Your Name Here,

I couldn't find out: the hotel (one floor in a large building of five one-floor hotels) was full of these rather good, but unsigned, 80s-style B&W photos of Hamburg.

However (and I hesitate to mention this, but I doubt many Hamburglars read this blog): the walls of a nearby restaurant, the Brasserie Flum, were *covered* in framed photos by Cartier Bresson, Doisneau, and other French notables... I nearly choked on my Sauerkraut when I noticed. I asked whether they were genuine, and was told yes. On closer inspection (and to the considerable inconvenience of other diners) I found that many were signed and/or inscribed... Total classics, too, like the portrait of Sartre: they must be worth a tidy sum.


Paul Mc Cann said...

You've given me the urge to visit Hamburg, never a longed for destination for me, but I'm intrigued by the hotel you recommend. Trying to book 3 nights from 30/05/20 I'm coming up with a rate of €2997 for the three nights. And there was me always picturing you as a poor struggling artist ?

Mike C. said...


Well, picture me as the partner of a university professor, accompanying her on a conference gig! But that's *way* over what we paid (via -- I think it was about 850 for five nights?


Gavin McL said...

We had holiday earlier in the year in the Peloponnese and as I wandered round the museums attached to the various ancient sites; Olympia, Mycenae, Corinth etc the thought that that bloke Mike would have a field day her with his collages crossed my mind several times

Mike C. said...


I must get back to Greece sometime -- haven't been there since 1973, although I don't suppose the "ancient" bits will have changed much (unless the appalling traffic pollution has eroded everything).

Apologies for intruding on your holidays!