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Adventures in Mormon art history

One aspect of an Arnold Friberg painting of Nephi, however, might smack of déjà vu for art historians more than for followers of contemporary politics: Nephi’s hand. Hand gestures can import a lot of figurative meaning in paintings, especially religious ones. When Christ holds up two fingers, as he often did while sitting for holy icons from the sixth century onward, he probably meant to convey his twin natures, human and divine. When John the Baptist points up with just one finger, it’s to let us know the double-natured Christ is coming. Nephi’s gesture—palm down with the fingers slightly spread—may reflect a more secular but no less cosmological subject.
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