• Maquette
  • Fabrication
  • Fabrication
  • Handshake at Gunther Stilling's studio before shipping to Newport News
  • Handshake, photo by Alexander Kravets
  • Handshake, photo by Alexander Kravets



What better icon is there for the Virginia Peninsula’s central business district than two hands coming together in the customary sign of an agreement made, a deal struck?

Sculptor Gunther Stilling tells a story about how business was done in the village where he grew up. When negotiations were underway to sell a pig, for example, the buyer would open with a low offer, only to have his hand slapped away by the seller. The seller would respond with a price too high, with the same result. When the two met on a price, their hands would come together in a gesture that’s repeated across the world, as well as in Stilling’s village.

For Stilling, though, hands are much more than a way of transacting business — they are the essence of what it means to be human. With our hands, we communicate, we create, we comfort … we do the things that signify us as people. Just from the hands, Stilling says, you can learn much about a person.

Audio Tour: Hear Stilling tell you about his piece

photo by Melanie Sochan

Artist: Gunther Stilling

Details: Cast aluminum, 10’ high. Made in Pietrasanta, Italy. Installed in 2013.
Site: Traffic circle at Thimble Shoals Boulevard and Town Center Drive, at entrance to City Center in Oyster Point

About The Artist: Gunther Stilling

Gunther Stilling at Handshake unveiling, March 2013. Photo by Melanie Sochan.

The body takes on fantastic forms in the hands of Gunther Stilling. Working in metal and stone, he presents us with elements of the human form — heads, feet, hands and torsos — that are rooted in antiquity while, at the same time, they seem to visit from a fantastic place in the future … or our imaginations.

With Stilling’s artistry, a foot that would be at home in a Roman forum sports metal rods and bars — evocative, perhaps, of a sandal like you’ve never seen. A face has fleshy lips and sections of its underpinning are lifted away. A hand is detailed with whorled fingertips and a bandage and a palm that has been sectioned and rearranged.

Often, Stilling’s work brings to mind archeological artifacts, and many of their names evoke classical roots: Ophelia, David and Goliath, Cain and Abel, Icarus, Thermopylae and Sphinx. They can be found in squares, town halls, museums and universities across Europe.

Stilling studied at the State University of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, Germany. In addition to his work as a sculptor, he taught for many years at the University of Applied Sciences in Kaiserslautern. He divides his time between Germany and Pietrasanta, Italy, where he has a studio and where Handshake was made.

Stilling’s website: stilling.de