On the left is a little note, made perhaps by the photographer himself. M. Sieveking’s Hands 3747-6. A quick online search tells me it may be Martinus Sieveking. Sieveking’s hands do not look like a pianist’s. They are rather short and stubby. The arms look frail, yet with a hint of suppleness. The limbs belong to a powerful man.
The photograph could not have been taken without the use of a device, or another person, yet there is nothing that gives way for a solid conclusion.
The burlap sack — or quilt — has a pattern that is vaguely Native American and Mexican. Or Roman, or Greek. The hands seem soft, yet there is dirt (or grease) softly embedded between the fingernails. The left thumb looks particularly dirty.
A closer inspection of the fabric results in two thumbtacks solidly placed on the mesosphere of the photograph. They hold the fabric up, but the placement of the hands seem to signify otherwise.
The hands look tense. The seem uncertain. The photographer has asked the subject to look natural, but the mere utterance of a phrase sends the subject into an anxious tremor. Or it could be that the photographer, using a third device to hold the camera steady could only manage such a shot without moving the camera.
These are the hands of a working person. There is no fragility. These hands are the extension of the body, a hard-working man with 13 inventions to his name. His nails are near and trim, unlike mustache, which has grown erratic and wild.
His hands are placed gently on the fabric. The photographer has asked him to bring a valuable object. The fabric is it. It is a reminder of his past — his life.
We can imagine him beaming as the photographer asks him questions about his life. He is a simple man leading a simple life. That, to him, is happiness.
On the lower right hand side, besides the right arm, a fingerprint is visible. This is the fingerprint of the hand that ran through life itself.