Digiti pollices Armitagei

So, since I had no time to think about anything today except for the content of my big lecture, or write anything meaningful at all, I give you this completely shallow moment which involves no thought whatsoever.

I love Mr. Armitage’s thumbs.

I first met his right thumb in North & South.

Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) kisses Margaret (Daniela Denby-Ashe) at the conclusion of North & South, episode 4. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery.

Most people are looking at the lips and the expressions on their faces, but keep your  mind on the THUMB, folks! If you watch this piece in sequence you’ll note that the camera gradually moves closer and closer to the thumb!

But it turns out that Armitage had thumbs well before that, for instance, in Sparkhouse.

John Standring (Richard Armitage) signals to Carol Bolton (Sarah Smart) that the sale of his house is going to work out, in Sparkhouse, episode 3. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery.

Weird, but those are basically the same thumbs Mr. Armitage displays in this photo, taken this year. Guess that’s why he’s so successful as an actor. Man of a thousand faces.

Candid photo of Richard Armitage taken shortly after Radio 1 interview, May 4, 2010. Source: Richard Armitage Net.

Then again one wonders how John Standring might have fared with that thumb had he just cut his hair, dyed it black and started wearing leather jackets. He might not have needed Carol at all!

Of course, we should not forget that the thumb is an important device in Mr. Armitage’s toolkit of gestural mood signals. “Hands on the face” is the usual Armitage gestural sign for severe emotional distress.

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) responds to Oleg Darshavin’s (Emil Hostina) threats about Sarah Caulfield in Spooks 8.4. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery.

Naturally, given the subtlety of Armitage’s gestural repertoire, one wonders what emotion Lucas’s thumb signals in this scene.

Lucas (Richard Armitage) caresses Sarah’s (Genevieve O’Reilly) posterior after promising her the gratitude of the entire British people if she gives him some information and she demands more in Spooks 8.6. My cap.

But in the end, digitus pollex Armitagei still plays its most important role, for me, in the kiss. I actually got the idea for this post last night while watching this scene.

John Porter (Richard Armitage) convinces Katie Dartmouth (Orla Brady) that they will escape their captivity, in Strike Back 1.2. My cap.

Sleep tight, readers. Till tomorrow.


ETA: ps: Another Anonymous Academic reminded us of this thumb move:

Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) reacts to the news that Margaret will leave Milton in North & South, episode 4. This cap and the next courtesy of Richard Armitage Central Gallery.

about which she is right, but I think I didn’t include this because the slightly later fist is what grabs me, and of course that is a slightly different signal (grin):

~ by Servetus on September 3, 2010.

61 Responses to “Digiti pollices Armitagei”

  1. Oh, Servetus, you make me smile! I rather wish John S. HAD cut his hair, dyed it black and gotten a leather motorcycle jacket so he just might have found someone who appreciated him more than Carol, still mooning over the weedy, wishy-washy Andrew . . .

    RA does have really beautiful hands and a most excellent set of thumbs. Love that candid photo outside the studio . . . *sigh* And when he kisses a woman, cupping her face with his hands, stroking her cheek with the pad of those big, broad, shapely thumbs, oooooooh–he makes it into an art form.


    • Well, I’ve read before that the reason for that cupping of the face of the kissee is so he can make sure he’s steering her nose to avoid collision. 🙂

      Though I love the thumbs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL, well, I guess when you’re an actor with a magnificent aquiline nose like that you have to learn how to work around it.
        And it certainly works for the viewer as well.


  2. Please, STOP! Is there any aspect you have not noticed and analysed?? Ears next? (Haven’t you ignored those?) See no indication of a bunion on the thumbs, (assuming thumbs can develop bunions…:)

    Art form, indeed, Angie, and the changing light of the eyes…and the softening the mouth.

    Now, back to strictly objective consideration of roles and acting. Getting there any time now…


    • Ooh, this feels slightly eerie, fitzg. I was just writing a passage of my John/Layla fanfic in which John is cupping her face, “his gaze intent, lips parted and soft.” She feels as if he is making love to her with those amazing eyes . . .

      Oh, I don’t feel like being objective at all . . . *swoon*


      • His eyes are indeed amazing angie. Beyond amazing really.

        I love them all the more because they have a slight imperfection (in the midst of all that general perfection) – though it seems almost disloyal to mention it.

        But in screencaps you can sometimes see that his right eye turns in ever so slightly – when he’s looking at something close up for instance, or looking up at an angle. Maybe due to a slight astigmatism, or maybe tiredness? It’s endearing, whatever the cause.

        I’ve only ever noticed it in still pictures of him, but maybe it explains why his gaze can have that incredible intensity sometimes.


        • I’m please you noticed this, because I have seen it too. It is cute. German men were always telling me that a so-called “Silberblick” (eyes being very slightly out of parallel) was sexy — since noticing this about Mr. Armitage I understand more.


          • RA is perfect in his imperfections, for me. I have noticed the slight eye turn.

            My older sister was born with strabismus on top of her toxomplasmosis, the former corrected when she was a child. However, she has a slight eye turn today, with lovely, big, long-lashed blue-grey eyes–her best feature– and so I think fondly of her when I look at Richard’s eyes in certain stills.
            Sounds odd, but she is one of the dearest people in the world to me, and we both love Richard, so–I like the connection. And I’ll say that men seem to find that Silberblick eye sexy, too, judging by the comments she has gotten over the years.

            And Richard’s eyes are certainly one of his most compelling features for me and so many others–windows to the soul.


    • Ears are on the list.

      I will get back to something series, fitzg. This level of objectification has been bugging me, too, and something someone said to me yesterday made me wonder whether about the levels of objectification of different things — i.e., why is it ok to go on about his thumbs, but make fun of people who love his toes?

      But, and this is more serious: this is unfortunately how my mind works. Once a detail grabs my attention, I become obsessive.


    • …and the hairs on his arms…


  3. You left out Thornton’s thumb on Margaret’s face in the train station liplock at the train station! And (my utter favorite) his thumb shortly after Higgins tells him that Mr. Hale has died and Margaret will be leaving Milton; a thumbtastic flutter as he struggles not to cry and covers whatever emotion his mouth might reveal, I think. It wouldn’t do to burst into tears in the workers’! That’s the most expressive thumb I know of among his extensive thumbwork.


    • well, I had hoped that the first picture would cover the first. But you’re right about the second. I’ll add that in here shortly.


  4. As per servetus’ screen cap, Porter’s scenes with Katie are some of the most intimate I’ve seen on screen. Most of it, especially the first interactions when they cannot use their hands, are especially moving. To be able to communicate the intensity of protection and care that Porter does for Katie and her desperate grasping of the hope he brings her, is a tribute to the level of skill each actor brought to the scenes. No thumbs were necessary although Porter’s deep, vibrating voice saying, “Brave girl, brave girl”was heart wrenching. Thank you servetus for the reminder.


    • The scenes with John and Katie were riveting. I thought to myself, if I were ever in such a dreadful situation, I could only hope so comforting a rescuer might come my way.

      We got to see the tender, nurturing side of John Porter the soldier, the same side we saw in that scene with Lexie in her bedroom when she was a little girl. So much kindness and compassion in his eyes, his voice, and later, his touch. The way Katie’s eyes lightened with hope in response to him.

      Oh, “Brave girl, brave girl” and the gentle shushing sound—I fell in love with JP right then and there.

      Also, the way Katie reached up and didn’t want to let go of him when they are trundling her away on the gurney. They had shared an experience so harrowing, so intense it undoubtedly bonded the two in a special way.

      Beautifully, beautifully played by Orla and Richard (I was really saddened we didn’t see more of Katie in the series . . . so I brought her back in my fanfic)


    • I loved those scenes, too, kind of against my own inclination.


  5. Dying to see SB (even if it isn’t my cup’o’tea, as a genre.) Prefereneces aside, how does the performance, and more importantly the experience, inform the actor’s career.

    And “hand to mouth”, We all are taken by certain scenes. One of my favourites is S7.8, after Connie has sacrificed herself and told Lucas that it was she who betrayed him. What adds to this scene is Ros’ “softening of eyes”) in her concern for Lucas, which renders the Lucas action the more poignant. (Ensemble acting) While there are a number of recurrent manners in Mr. Armitage’s roles, every one of them is fresh and in character.


    • @fitzg,

      I am eager for you to see it, too. Looking forward to your reaction to RA’s performance in the series. It has plenty of flaws, but I do so dearly love Sergeant John Porter.

      Yes! That scene in Spooks–the depth of the emotion of that moment. You can feel Lucas’s inner turmoil as he finally learns the truth. He has used the hand to mouth gesture very effectively in a number of roles. I can think of several instances with Sir Guy, too.

      You’re right, RA has certain characteristic mannerisms such as the hand to mouth, the cupping gesture of the face of his female co-stars, that smirk, the furrowed brow–but as you say, it’s fresh and different with each character. Watching RA in each new role is an epiphany.

      Oh, gosh, I really could ramble on forever about the fellow.


    • Super comment, fitzg. I looked at that scene but didn’t include it because we only see his thumb in shadow. What I always notice in that seen is how dirty Lucas’s fingers are — a concrete connection between the wounds he’s taken in 7.8 and his ongoing distress, especially because Lucas’s hands are always so clean otherwise.


  6. When I say it, of course, I mean the series. RA’s performance is, as one critic said, “magnificent.”


  7. The thumbs and the fingers are a part of the most beautiful pair of hands in the acting kingdom! I don’t think they would have half the impact on us as viewers were they short and stubby! And I agree that their owner puts them to good use in such subtle ways. Just the fact that they are usually hidden by a pair of leather gloves as Guy, makes the occasional sight of them so thrilling in RH! I really can’t imagine another actor being able to create such an iconic moment by their removal.

    I’ve missed being a part of your world for a while, Servetus, but relentless claims on my time have removed me. I have discovered that participating in any meaningful way takes a certain amount of time, whether it’s reading posts or digesting and replying to others’ thoughts. I’m feel severe withdrawal symptoms and a sense of frustration. I want to be pwoaring, thighing and, not least, thinking on your blog as I did a few weeks ago!


    • Hey, and Servetus has invited me to her MA Program with you as my advisor, MillyMe–I believe you are the John Porter chair, my dear.
      (Yes, you have a lot of catching up to do . . . hang in there! I’m just getting caught up myself tonight.)


    • I’ve missed you, MillyMe, but I completely understand how the nagging issues of reality get in the way of Armitagemania. We are always happy to have you here.


      • Of course, selfishly I expect her to regularly provide her attentions to new postings of Truce sent to her, to keep me properly “Britishized.” *grin*


        • “Truce” is getting really British now. I had to look up a few words in the last installment. “Cossie.”

          Do the British abbreviate all nouns by ending them with ‘ie’? 🙂


          • Not sure if it’s a hard and fast rule to use “ie” with abbreviated nouns, but they certainly do it quite a lot.

            I am proud to note “cossie” was one I already knew. Milly is just expanding my knowledge very nicely.


  8. Thumbs up for this post! Servetus, I think we need a map of Mr. A’s “body of work”, so we can see which parts we have yet to discover! 😛 LOL


  9. A MAP, PHLLY3! Starting with the cowlicks, (somehat flat back of the head – have we discussed that yet?) to the ears and eyes, the brows, nose, mouth, ears ((not yet dissected, probably just as well) neck, shoulders, waist and iliac, thighs, bunion feet? And I will not mention the well-developed rear-end. (Oops, just did)

    Superb actor, would be partly? flattered and frightfully mortified by this all this dissection. What are we – forensics?!

    But great good fun, and also very informative commentary on both what has drawn us to this actor’s career, and to “tangential” area, which we also share/to which everyone contributes with new perspectives..


    • Excellent fun, and endlessly fascinating to discover how this one particular, amazing actor has made an impact on so many hearts, minds and spirits in similar and yet, individual, ways . . .

      His ears. Ahhhh. Distinctive. Ordinary from certain views and then–look again–it’s the world’s tallest elf! He really is a man you must study from all angles, all sides, inside and out. What a find!


    • We are thespian physiologists.


  10. The Institute of Armitage Studies perhaps needs a department of RAnatomy. Further studies are definitely needed!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Was that Tall Ears, Angiek? Haven’t quite got there yet in the Institute of Armitage Studies.

    Think we require servetus to put us back on track, phlly3, or mentor us to the proper level, and I don’t think I’m at that post-grad level yet. Still hoping, though 🙂


  12. Was that “Look back at me”, Angie?


  13. I feel I need to say that I like Mr Armitage because of his body of work, not his body parts.


  14. I like him. Period. As an actor, as a human being, as a living, breathing work of art. He pleases and captivates on all levels.


    • Elegantly and succintly put, Angie! You summed it up for me as well.

      @fitg: Was it you who reccommended Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth about the building of cathedrals in twelfth-century England on this blog earlier? I bought it last week. At a mere 1086 pages, it should be a breeze to read when I no longer always have time to even visit this blog, lol! RA-fascination continues to lead me into mysterious places!


  15. Do you think that is perhaps what we are trying to understand? Given the initial attraction and “this person can act, too”; and the “WHY?” this actor?” In individual ways, and incorporating much self-and-other-analysis, and sharing some other background and interests , with a large dollop of laughing at ourselves?


    • As intelligent, discerning, well-educated women, yeah, I think we are looking for answers.

      What is the Secret to the Magic of Richard Armitage? Why Do We Care So Much About This Actor? Have We Collectively Lost our Minds–And Do We Care??

      I’ve never been one to be bowled over purely by looks alone. For me, there has to be substance beneath the surface. Intelligence, creativity, groundedness with strong values, a good sense of humour, a confident yet modest personality: these are qualities that attract me, qualities I would hope to find within myself.
      Qualities I find within the love of my life. Those things matter to me.

      I also believe there should be a passion for one’s work. Richard seems to have that in spades. He inspires me. He is such a fine actor, so detailed, so nuanced, so dedicated to getting it right. Looks aside, I would want to watch his performances again and again.

      I love the arts, I am an artistic and creative person and I do see RA as a kindred spirit in that respect. I also enjoy engaging in discussions, both serious and light-hearted, depthy and shallow, with other creative people. Blogs like this one allow me to do so.

      And–there is the fact no one much in this neck of the woods even knows who Richard Armitage the actor is, other than the nice-looking guy on Angie’s wallpaper and her keychain. *wink*

      So I must seek such discussions online. He’s too good a discovery not to share and reflect upon, IMHO.

      Depending on where and when we first discovered him, we all have different perspectives and insights into why we respond to RA and his characters in certain ways. It’s fascinating to read those.

      Re: elf ears, I first noticed them in Robin Hood. There is a screencap from S1 in which he’s talking to Marian and the elfin tip is poking out of his longish hair. Noticed it Spooks on several occasions–more easily seen with the shorter hair. There’s always been a certain otherworldly beauty to him for me, anyway. Said beauty the divine bonus to having such a great actor to watch.

      OK, time for me to shut up now.


  16. @Millyme, re: Pillars and World Without End, it might have been. I did read them several years ago, and mentioned some surprise here that Mr. Armitage was not in the cast. I admit, that my choices of roles could be (probably are) too much to a stereotype – so I WILL watch SB, when it comes here! And on the stereotyping, if ever BBC or whoever makes a series of Anne Perry’s Thomas Pitt or William Monk, well…. I leave it to you!


    • Keeping fingers crossed about Anne Perry’s characters . . . should we send RA a couple of her Monk and Pitt novels? A gentle nudge in that direction . . .


  17. […] to share this appeal. And no, I’m not just posting it because my correspondent said she liked what I had to say about the thumbs. (Grin). As a newbie I didn’t realize that North & South hadn’t been broadcast on a […]


  18. To bring this back to the appropriate analytical level, I’ll note that what makes his thumb particularly striking for me is the formation of the capitulum of the (first) metacarpal. It’s quite prominent, and forms a sort of architectural axis to anchor his very prominent extensor pollicis longus and extensor pollicis brevis muscles — these are particularly visible in the first (train station) cap. Very striking, the visibility of the sheaths of those muscles in that shot.


  19. @Sev I am guest blogging for our friend Nat when she goes on “maturnity leave” and I had planned on doing a post on his hands. I hope you don’t mind since you just did a post on his thumbs.


  20. […] Hands on the face as a sign of extreme emotional distress. I find this interesting because it’s something that male Spooks characters do relatively […]


  21. […] ok to make fun of people who like toes, for instance. When it’s demonstrably clear that I like thumbs. And the thumb is like the big toe of the hand and so on. I suppose I could make an argument about […]


  22. […] the entrancing “eyes appear to be not exactly focused on the same spot” feature that feefa raised and that we find so entrancing (here enhanced by the shadow in his right eye socket where the upper […]


  23. […] or a five on the outside. Anyway, love the extreme prominence not only of the MCP on the thumb (I’ve discussed this before) but also on the index finger, which seem to enhance the vehemence of the gesture. Armitage really […]


  24. […] Image: me+Richard […]


  25. […] Here‘s a bit more about the MCP. […]


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