There are other idiosyncrasies to examine in Bessler’s portraits besides the ones I have pointed out on my website at theorffyreuscode.com but one I haven’t discussed before concerns the strangeness of Bessler’s hand gesture. In the portrait below, notice the left hand, ringed in red. His little finger seems to be unusually separated from the next one, the ring finger. In fact it looks almost as if it was originally placed next to the ring finger but then altered to appear in its current position or if you prefer, the two middle fingers are closer together than the two on either side.
There are several web sites explaining the significance of this feature which appears in a lot of Renaissance paintings. Three paintings picked at random below, demonstrate the point, but what does the gesture signify?
During the Renaissance period, hands were as important a focus of attention as the face was, because they were the only other visible area of the body. Hence, representation of the position of the hands became a decorative element that was almost as important as the face. Thus, given its high visibility, hand gestures in portraits and paintings have been one of the most effective ways of conveying secrets, codes and messages.
It seems that there are two possible interpretation of this gesture. First there is Freemasonry or Masonic membership and rank. Apparently the gesture was a secret sign used to recognize masonic followers. The enigmatic posture of the hand has fascinated a lot of scholars of hidden societies, who believe that the unusual splayed fingers represents the letter M, which indicated not only Masonic membership and rank, but also possession of occult secrets. That seems to fit with what we suspect about Bessler, but there is another possibility.
It was Ignacio de Loyola’s gesture for the atonement of sins
According to this hypothesis, the gesture was a sign with a religious meaning used by Jesuits. San Ignacio de Loyola founded the Jesuits’ Order in 1541 and became its first Superior General. The Saint used to recommend a gesture for believers, ‘each time one falls into sin, in laying the hand on the breast whilst inciting one’s inner self to grief.’