The forgotten language of gestures. A portrait of Cyprian Kamil Norwid by Pantaleon Szyndler (1882)
The present article is to encourage interdisciplinary study (combining rhetoric, history of art and theatre, ceremonial, semiology, linguistics, psychology, etc.) – not yet undertaken in Poland – of the iconic sign, ie the gesture. From Antiquity the gesture, and in particular the “talking hand,” was a visual element of each oration. It was taught during rhetoric classes, when students were introduced into the mysteries of chironomy and chirology. Gestures were normalised and hence understandable to listeners-viewers. Preserved in works of art, they have become incomprehensible to people living today. The author tries to “revive” the frozen figures so that they would speak to us with their gestures, as they did in the past. He does so using the 18th–19th century portraits as examples, including the famous portrait of Cyprian Norwid by Pantaleon Szyndler (from 1882).