We all collect something or does that something collect us?
May 31, 2012
There’s little history on the subject, but it must have gone back to cavemen who had the necessary backlighting, large hands, and proper dark cave.
“Look, Ogsti, "You've made a “Big Lizard.”
Either that, or there was an actual big lizard behind them.
We do know that in ancient China, puppeteers stretched donkey skin, dried sheepskin and many varieties of animal skin, on their hands. Scrunched them into all sorts of wondrous things with the light passing through, and told stories, creating the first puppet shows.
Hand shadows reached their absolute zenith (such as it was) in the 19th Century, thanks to candlelight, the gas lamp and Henry Burcill.
Burcill's main claim to fame was, along with Sir Edwin Landseer, sculpting the four great lions in Trafalgar Square and wrote (I should say drew) the two classic books on the subject, “Hand Shadows” and “More Hand Shadows.”
First published in 1859 and 1860 (in two parts), they're simply books of pictures. No words. No page of text describing the history and variations of each pattern.
Might have wanted to keep a few secrets to himself.
However, Albert Almoznino, in a small 1964 classic, “The Art of Hand Shadows” spills all the beans.
He’ll tell you how to hold your hands in order to make a lumbering dinosaur, a pair of playing monkeys, an eagle that slowly takes flight and for his coup de gras, a cat that scratches itself, lashes its tail, and jumps towards the audience.
From a simpler time.
An unsung art that deserves a hand.