THE PROPERTY OF A NOBLEMAN

Southern German, probably Franconia, circa 1505-1515
THE GRÜNINGER HAND 
Estimate
12,00015,000
LOT SOLD. 75,000 GBP (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)
JUMP TO LOT

THE PROPERTY OF A NOBLEMAN

Southern German, probably Franconia, circa 1505-1515
THE GRÜNINGER HAND 
Estimate
12,00015,000
LOT SOLD. 75,000 GBP (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master Sculpture and Works of Art Including Splendours from a Mantuan Palazzo

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London

Southern German, probably Franconia, circa 1505-1515
THE GRÜNINGER HAND 
iron, wood, and painted metal, with a leather strap
lower arm and hand: 35cm., 13¾in.
upper arm sleeve: 31.5cm., 12 3/8 in.
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Provenance

Marquard Eustach Freiherr von Hornstein (1722-1806) and his wife, Anna Schertel von Burtenbach (1736-1773);
thence by descent to the present owner, Schloss Grüningen, Upper Swabia

Literature

L. Löffler, Der Ersatz für die obere Extremität: Die Entwicklung von den ersten Zeugnissen bis heute, Stuttgart, 1984, pp. 14-17

Catalogue Note

This extraordinary survival is among the earliest examples of a technically accomplished prosthetic upper limb. Designed for an individual who has lost the right arm at the elbow, the prosthetic is particularly rare in its inclusion of an iron sleeve for the remaining upper arm, which joins with the lower-arm part through a gear mechanism that allowed the wearer to adjust the angle of the 'elbow'. It was also possible, by pressing the metal buttons on the palm, to move the four front fingers – individually as pairs – into a clutching position. The lower arm is wooden, while the hand itself is composed of iron, with painted and partially modelled knuckles, joints, and nails.

The so-called Grüninger Hand has historically been associated with the infamous Franconian knight Götz von Berlichingen (1480-1562), who vividly described the loss of his lower right arm at the siege of the city of Landshut in 1504, and became known for his use of an iron prosthetic hand following this incident. Götz 'of the iron hand' rose to national fame in the 18th century, when Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published a play about the historical figure, prompting the return of the two recorded prosthetic hands that he had worn to the Berlichingen family in 1788. The two hands belonging to Berlichingen, now on display at Jagsthausen Castle, had until then been in the possession of Marquard Freiherr von Hornstein, who also owned, and kept, the present arm. It is however thought to be unlikely that the present limb was worn by Götz, as the inclusion of an elbow is inconsistent with his injury. Nevertheless, it has been argued that the Grüninger Hand was produced in the same workshop as the older of Berlichingen’s 'hands' due to close similarities in facture and function (Löffler, op. cit.). This, coupled with the provenance, leaves open the tantalising possibility that Götz von Berlichingen also owned the present prosthetic.

Old Master Sculpture and Works of Art Including Splendours from a Mantuan Palazzo

|
London