...everything is symbol, allegory; everything says something other than its initial meaning; everything hides and reveals, speaks and is silent; everything murmurs to the ear that is capable of hearing. But who is still capable of hearing today?
The hand is no longer the hand, it is more than the hand; the middle finger is not the middle finger, but more than the middle finger. Namely? Within this allegorical configuration, each finger has meaning. The hand? The soul, the principle of life. The fingers? The opportunity for a spiritual exercise - a mnemonic technique inherited from the ancients. The thumb? "Give thanks."The index finger? "Strive to reach the light."The ring finger? "Suffer, regret."The little finger? "Offer, propose, show, present." And the middle finger, then? "Examine, weigh." A lesson in edification.
Consequently, the extended middle finger in Holbein's painting, as one might have imagined, has nothing to do with the phallic hand. At the epicentre of the work, Holbein is saying to us: "Look and conclude: examine."