Clasped Hands of Elizabeth and Robert Browning 1853

Plaster cast of clasped hands of Robert and Elizabeth Browning.

Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, Clasped Hands of Elizabeth and Robert Browning, 1853; Gift of Molly F. Sheppard

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.”

National Museum of Women in the Arts