Painted plaster head and stand, representing French criminal Norbert after execution, collected by Dr. Gachet, probably for phrenological use, French, 1831-1900.
During the 1800s, plaster heads of executed criminals were used for an emerging field of study called phrenology. Phrenologists believed the shape and size of areas of the brain (and therefore the overlying skull) determined personality. This meant criminals such as Norbert made interesting subjects. Heads like this were part of larger phrenological reference sets which included famous people and ethnographic examples. This example belonged to Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet (1777-1850). He is best known for treating painter Vincent van Gogh in the last weeks of his life. Gachet was the subject of one of van Gogh’s most famous paintings.
- Psychology, Psychiatry & Anthropometry
- Object Number:
- phrenological head
- visual and verbal communication
- Gachet, Dr.
- Loan: Wellcome Trust
Cite this page
We encourage the use and reuse of our collection data.
Data in the title, made, maker and details fields are released under Creative Commons Zero
Descriptions and all other text content are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence
Download catalogue entry as json
Download manifest IIIF
Our records are constantly being enhanced and improved, but please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information shown on this website.