Rest in the Peace of His Hands ca. 1936

Käthe Kollwitz, Rest in the Peace of His Hands, ca. 1936; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Käthe Kollwitz created Rest in the Peace of His Hands to adorn her family grave stone. She took the title of the work from a verse by Goethe, a favorite author: “God is master of the East. God is master of the West. All the northern and southern lands rest in peace within his hands.”

Executed in high relief, this image of tranquil repose in God’s embrace embodies powerful emotions through simple compositional means. An androgynous face stands for any member of humanity; its grasping hand draws the protective cloak or robe more tightly. The encircling hands—oversized, yet soft and gentle—provide both comfort and protection, qualities Kollwitz found sorely lacking in war-torn Europe and likely anticipated after death. Here, as in much of her art, Kollwitz relied on hands as primary signifiers of human emotion. 

Though perhaps best known as a printmaker, Kollwitz dedicated much of her later artistic practice to sculpture. She began working in sculpture in 1910 but produced the majority of her sculptures in the 1930s and early 1940s. 

National Museum of Women in the Arts