"He's biting his fingers. I instantly recognize his tremendous suffering."—Emmanuel von Schack, educator and ASL user
Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (French, 1827–1875). Ugolino and His Sons, 1865–67. Saint-Béat marble. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundation Inc. Gift, Charles Ulrick and Josephine Bay Foundation Inc. Gift, and Fletcher Fund, 1967 (67.250). Learn more about this object.
How does the sculpted body communicate? Hear from Met experts, leading authorities, and rising stars, each with a unique viewpoint on the language of gesture, facial expression, and pose.
Emmanuel von Schack: Immediately noticeable in this piece is that Ugolino's hands are at his face and he's biting his fingers. From this I instantly recognize his tremendous suffering. Hands and facial expressions are critical components of communication in American Sign Language, or ASL. Other features of ASL include body language, movement in 3D space, pacing, among others, but primary among them are facial expressions and hand shapes.
My eye follows his form down to his feet, and I recognize the approach to their oversized representation is similar to his enormous hands. His feet are noticeably larger than life. Their tension parallels his hands, and draws my eye back upward, and I'm even more taken by the misery depicted on his hands and face. When you walk around this piece, you continuously absorb new information. All in all, it is an incredibly dynamic piece.