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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Humans:

Physiognomy with Charles Le Brun

Charles Le Brun was a French painter and art theorist. Declared by Louis XIV ”the greatest French artist of all time”, he was a dominant figure in 17th-century French art. He also established a correlation between the human face and that of the animal whose spirit characterises a particular emotion.

The goal of physiognomy is to judge character according to features of the face. Le Brun studied the lines linking different points of the head in a complex geometry which revealed the faculties of the spirit or character. Thus, the angle formed by the axis of the eyes and the eyesbrows could lead to various conclusions, depending upon whether or not this angle rose toward the forehead to join the soul or descented toward the nose and mouth, which were considered to be animal  features. Here are some of the many drawings by Charles Le Brun which concern the correlation between the human face and that of the animal.

Image one, for instance, shows the relationship between human features and that of a camel.

[Images Source]

(Source: charleslebrun.com)

A belief in hell and the knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor

—Aldous Huxley

The “Anatomical Machines” of the Prince of Sansevero, 1763-64:

In the Underground Chamber [of the San Severo Chapel Museum in Naples, Italy], housed in two glass cases, are the famous Anatomical Machines, i.e. the skeletons of a man and of a woman in upright position, with the artery and vein systems almost perfectly intact. The Machines were made by the doctor Giuseppe Salerno of Palermo, under the direction of Raimondo di Sangro. The discovery of notaries’ deeds and credit notes makes it possible to date these “works” to 1763-64. The two anatomical studies are the most enigmatic objects in the Sansevero Chapel. Still today, after about two-and-a-half centuries, it is still not known which procedures or materials were used to obtain such an exceptional preservation of the circulatory system. [Source]

These artefacts … were quite sensational in their time, when popular imagination held that the Prince—in his ardor for rational, materialist science—had commanded that two of his servants be killed and virtuosically embalmed. His goal in this dark deed? To create a sort of anatomical Adam and Eve, who would—from pedestals on high and forevermore—elegantly and accurately illustrate the skeletal structure, viscera, arterial system, and vein systems of the human form. Though not the most beautiful things in the world (see above) it is said their accuracy is astounding, down to the smallest detail. [Source]