Without Hands: The Art of Sarah Biffin (Paperback)
A celebration of an artist whose under-sung legacy testifies to the enduring power of originality, drive, and devotion.
Accompanying an exhibition at Philip Mould & Company, Without Hands presents the art of Sarah Biffin. Biffin (1784–1850) was born with phocomelia, a condition described on her baptism record as “born without arms and legs.” After learning to sew and write as a child, Biffin joined a traveling sideshow where she painted in front of an audience. Eventually, she rose to fame as a talented miniaturist, signing many of her works “without hands.”
Despite her prolific output, including commissions from royalty and exquisitely detailed self-portraits, Biffin’s work has been overlooked by art historians. Beautifully illustrated and including original research, Without Hands celebrates Biffin as an artist who challenged contemporary attitudes to disability.
— Financial Times
"This book comes at a moment when Biffin’s former celebrity is being retrieved....The essays in Without Hands, however, go beyond simple reputational resurrection. Touching on her biography, her art, and the historical context in which to view Biffin as a woman of disability, collectively they offer a genuine advance in our knowledge, a corrective to the more sensationalist approaches, and a deeper understanding of the challenges she faced."
— The Art Newspaper