Around the year 1490 there were two young artists who were very good friends. Both of them were poor and they had to support themselves while they studied art. Because their jobs took so much of their time and energy, their advancement in the field of art was slow. Discussing their plight, they struck an agreement. They would draw straws, and the one who drew the longer straw would study while the other worked to support both of them.
The young artist who drew the longer straw went to the cities of Europe to study. He soon became recognized as one of the outstanding artist of his time. After gaining success, he went home to get his friend and let him come to Europe to study while he, the successful artist, supported both of them on his earnings.
When the recognized artist saw his friend again, he discovered that the hard manual labor his friend had to perform had caused his fingers to become stiff and bent. His friend was no longer able to execute the delicate brush strokes necessary for painting. It was apparent that his dream of becoming a successful artist could never come true.
But the successful artist noticed an unusual trait in his friend. His friend accepted his fate without bitterness, happy that he had played a part in the success of the other. He actually rejoiced in his friend’s success.
One day the artist came upon his friend unexpectedly as he knelt in prayer. He was praying for the success of his friend, although he himself could no longer realize his own dream. Something about the kneeling man caught the attention of the artist and he hurriedly sketched the hands folded in prayer. Later the artist took that sketch and from it drew one of the most famous paintings in the world.
The man who painted the hands was Albrecht Durer. The man whose hands he painted was Franz Knigstein. And the painting is known today as The Praying Hands.