Praying hands tattoos are most commonly associated with the Christian faith and the outward expression of an internal communication with God. However, because of the tender story of love and devotion that goes along with the making of the image itself, some also link it to a more general feeling of appreciation and emotional warmth.
Many praying hands tattoos are closely based on the original Albrecht Durer sketch from 1508, which depicts a pair of wizened but graceful hands pressed lightly together and pointing toward the heavens. As the story goes two brothers from a very large family wanted to study art at the academy at Nuremburg. They knew however that their father would never be able to send them to study. To settle the dispute it was decided by a coin flip. The winner would study while the other brother would work in the mines to support the winner of the toss. The two brothers were Albrecht and Albert Durer.
Albrecht won the toss. He would study for four years and then he would finance his brothers study by selling his artwork , or if necessary, he would also work in the mines. Albrecht was very talented and his work was even better than his professors. Albert worked tirelessly to ensure his brother would be able to complete his studies. The work in the mines was hard and dangerous. By the time Albrecht graduated he was earning a decent living with his artwork.
The time came for Albert to begin his studies. A week passed and one day Albrecht came home and saw his brother on his knees praying. What he saw made his heart break. His brother was praying for Albrecht to be a successful artist. His hands were extended heavenward in prayer. The hands looked as though they belonged to an old man. They were gnarled and twisted so much that they looked as though they could hardly be used. Beside him was what resembled a painting but only because it was on a canvass. The painting was unrecognizable.
Tears flowed down his cheeks as Albrecht quickly drew a portrait of his brother’s hands in prayer. More than 400 years has passed and Albrecht Durer has paintings, etchings, charcoals, etc. in most of the famous museums of the world. But his most famous portrait remains ‘The Praying Hands.’ Praying hands tattoos are still one of the most requested tattoos of all time and can be a true symbol of absolute undying love.
Although simple praying hands tattoos are fairly common, many people like to embellish these pieces with other symbols. Often times, items like rosaries, dog tags or watches dangling from chains are twined between the fingers of one or both hands. Other items like bibles, roses or small, realistic photographs are sometimes placed in the hands as well. Small pieces of jewelry, dirt or scars may also add character to the hands and fingers. More unusual ways to depict this image would be to place a lit candle between the two hands while wax drips over the fingers, or to wrap the fingers and wrists in barbed wire or thick vines.
Though less common, some like to create unique versions of this classic image. For example, the usually fleshy hands may be made exceedingly slender or even skeletal, they may appear old and gnarled or young and childlike. Two other interesting variations would be to change the skin tone or to make them more delicate and feminine.
Sometimes people like to create a larger, more elaborate image with this particular piece. For instance, the praying hands may be at the front of a backdrop like a sunny sky, set against an open book or at the foot of a crucifix. The hands may also be surrounded by text – usually bible quotes or song lyrics – that are significant to the wearer.