The neural control of hand movement involves coordination of the sensory, motor, and memory systems. Recent studies have documented the motor coordinates for hand shape, but less is known about the corresponding patterns of somatosensory activity. To initiate this line of investigation, the present study characterized the sense of hand shape by evaluating the influence of differences in the amount of grasping or twisting force, and differences in forearm orientation. Human subjects were asked to use the left hand to report the perceived shape of the right hand. In the first experiment, six commonly grasped items were arranged on the table in front of the subject: bottle, doorknob, egg, notebook, carton, and pan. With eyes closed, subjects used the right hand to lightly touch, forcefully support, or imagine holding each object, while 15 joint angles were measured in each hand with a pair of wired gloves. The forces introduced by supporting or twisting did not influence the perceptual report of hand shape, but for most objects, the report was distorted in a consistent manner by differences in forearm orientation. Subjects appeared to adjust the intrinsic joint angles of the left hand, as well as the left wrist posture, so as to maintain the imagined object in its proper spatial orientation. In a second experiment, this result was largely replicated with unfamiliar objects. Thus, somatosensory and motor information appear to be coordinated in an object-based, spatial-coordinate system, sensitive to orientation relative to gravitational forces, but invariant to grasp forcefulness.