Urgent Museum Notice

Clasped Hands of Elizabeth and Robert Browning

Close up of Clasped Hands of Elizabeth and Robert Browning

Life-sized plaster cast sculpture of a man's hand on the bottom holding a woman's hand on top. The matte white surface reveals the textures of the skin and fingernails. The man's hand is capped with a plain thin cuff, while the woman's is capped with a delicate lace cuff.

Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, Clasped Hands of Elizabeth and Robert Browning, 1853; Plaster, 3 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 4 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Molly F. Sheppard

Clasped Hands of Elizabeth and Robert Browning
Harriet Goodhue Hosmer

Harriet Goodhue Hosmer met writers Robert and Elizabeth Browning in Rome in the winter of 1853. Soon after, the artist sought permission to create a cast their hands. The Brownings agreed to her request, provided Hosmer make the cast herself.

The resulting sculpture evokes the legendary love and devotion of the Brownings in a simple gesture of unity. The relative sizes of the hands and the cuffs at the wrists allow us to distinguish male from female. Hosmer created several versions of the sculpture in plaster and bronze.

Another member of their circle, author Nathaniel Hawthorne, referenced this work directly in his novel The Marble Faun: “Harriet Hosmer’s Clasped Hands of Browning and his wife symbolize the individuality and heroic union of two highly poetic lives.”

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Harriet Goodhue Hosmer
  • Title

    Clasped Hands of Elizabeth and Robert Browning
  • Date

    1853
  • Medium

    Plaster
  • Dimensions

    3 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 4 1/2 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Molly F. Sheppard
  • On Display

    No