Plaster head representing executed French criminal Lacenaire

Dublin Core

Title

Plaster head representing executed French criminal Lacenaire

Subject

Crime, Science, Murder, Phrenology, Medicine, Execution

Description

According to the London Science Museum, "Pierre Francois Lacenaire (1800-36) was a notorious French killer. He was executed by guillotine in March 1836. A plaster copy was made of his head after his death. This was collected by Dr Gachet (1828-1909), who specialised in the emerging field of psychiatry. Gachet was also a patron of the arts, becoming a close friend of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) and later his physician.

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 Lacenaire made interesting subjects. Faint pencil markings can still be seen on this plaster head. The areas outlined relate to ‘secretiveness’ and ‘destructiveness’. These areas of the skull were believed to be prominent in murderers and criminals. However, he was unusually well educated and a published poet. His story intrigued the public and inspired a character in Dostoevsky’s novel ‘Crime and Punishment.’

Heads like this were often part of larger phrenological reference sets which included famous people and ethnographic examples."

Creator

Unknown

Date

1821-1890

Contributor

Kelly Collins

Rights

London Science Museum; Credit- Dr. Gachet

Relation

"Three heads showing phrenological traits associated with insanity: a mentally defective person, a mad woman, and the murderer P.F. Lacenaire" -Jean Pierre Thenot, Caroline Picard
"Death Mask of William Burke"- Unknown

Format

Plaster; Still Image

Language

French; N/A

Type

Plaster Mold

Identifier

London Science Museum A158246

Coverage

19th Century

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Plaster mold

Physical Dimensions

base: 180 mm,

Files

Plaster mold (phrenology).jpg

Citation

Unknown, “Plaster head representing executed French criminal Lacenaire,” Enlightenmens, accessed August 10, 2022, http://enlightenmens.lmc.gatech.edu/items/show/571.

Output Formats