Art Principles and History

Prehistoric Art

Are those human hands?

Yes! Overall, there are not many depictions of humans in Paleolithic art and those images of humans that do exist are not as realistically rendered as images of animals. Floating around the top and bottom of a painting of two spotted horses from the Pech-Merle Cave in Dordogne, France, are the outlines of human hands. It is tempting to think that Paleolithic artists were merely playing around making handprints on the wall, but these images were purposefully done. Some of the hands seem to have been made by pressing a painted hand against the cave wall. Other hand prints where made by using the hand to create negative space. Paleolithic artists used their hands like a stencil and either, essentially, sponge painted or sprayed pigment with a reed or bone to create the outline.


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