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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Of the Hand
By Agnolo Firenzuola (1493–1545)
 
From ‘Of the Beauty of Women’: Translation of Clara Bell

THE HAND, which all declare to be perfect in you (to you I say it, Selvaggia, so hide it not), must likewise be white chiefly on the outer side, large enough and somewhat fat, the palm hollow and tinted with rose; the lines must be clear, few, distinct, firmly drawn, not crossing nor entangled, the mounts of Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury plainly to be seen, yet not over-high; the line of the intellect and wit should be deep and clear and crossed by no other. The hollow that lies between the thumb and middle finger must be shapely, without wrinkles, and brightly tinted. The fingers are beautiful when they are long, fine, and slender, tapering somewhat towards the tip, yet so little as to be scarce perceptible. The nails transparent, like pale rubies among pink roses and the leaves of the pomegranate flower; not long, not round nor altogether square, but of a fair shape and with a very little boss, uncovered, clean and well kept, so that at the base the little white crescent is visible. Above, beyond the flesh of the finger, an edge should be seen, as wide as a small knife is thick, without the smallest suspicion of a rim of black at the tip. And the whole hand must be of a tender, firm surface, as though it were of fine silk or the softest cotton. And this is all it occurs to me to say of the arms and hands. Now this image will no longer be like that in the piazza; but behold the thing she was compared with! You are indeed one of those sharp thorns which get in between the nail and the flesh, and if green, of the harder heart; and it is well for me that I have a good needle to withdraw it withal.  1
  Selvaggia—Now, meseems, your picture is like those which are wrought by the hands of a good master; and to tell the truth, it is a most beautiful thing, so that if I were a man, whereas I am a woman, I should be constrained like a second Pygmalion to fall in love with her. And do not think that I call her beautiful only to signify that the parts which we have given her are the occasion of it, seeing that the adornments and graces you have bestowed on her might have made even the wife of Jacopo Cavallaccio seem fair. Since I (to speak only of myself), if I had so fair a bosom as you have described, should not yield to Helen nor Venus for beauty.  2
  Celso—You have it indeed, and you know it; there is no need to make so many words about it. Good luck to you, and to him who may some day be worthy to behold it. And of a truth when that friend of mine composed a fine Elegy in its praise, having so fine a thread, it was no great marvel that he filled so fair a cloth. But to give our chimera the crowning perfection, that nothing may be lacking to her, you, Madonna Lampiada, will give her that witchery that sparkles in your eyes and that fine air which pervades the perfect proportion of your person; you, Madonna Amororrisca, will give her the queenly majesty of your person and the cheerfulness of your honest and modest gaze, that serious gait, that dignified countenance, and that gentle graciousness which delight all who behold them. Selvaggia will lend her a calm seemliness, an inviting charm, an honest yet bewitching, a severe yet sweet attractiveness, with that pitying cruelty which all are constrained to praise albeit none desire it. You, Verdespina, shall bestow the grace which makes you so dear; that readiness and sweetness of gay speech, subtle, honest, and gracious. Wit and the other gifts and virtues of the mind we do not need, inasmuch as we have described only the beauties of the body and not those of the spirit, for which a better painter than I am is needed, better colors and a better brush than those of my poor wit, albeit your example is no less sufficient for that kind of beauty than for the other.  3
  And thus without more words their discourse ended, and each one returned to his own home.  4
 
 
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