Loading

Terror from Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine ou Analyse électro-physiologique de l’expression des passions applicable à la pratique des arts plastiques (Mechanism of Human Physiognomy or Electro-Physiological Analysis of the Expression of Passions Applicable to the Practice of the Visuals Arts.)

Duchenne de Boulogne1854 - 1856, printed 1862

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Among the most gripping photographs of the 19th century, plates from Duchenne de Boulogne’s Mechanism of Human Physiognomy occupy a unique place at the intersection of art, science, and sentiment. A pioneering neurologist and physiologist as well as an amateur aesthetician, Duchenne de Boulogne conducted a series of experiments aimed at eliciting expressions of the principal emotions through the electrical stimulation of facial muscles. His goal was to publish an updated version of earlier treatises on the “passions of the soul”—attention, aggression, pain, joy, lasciviousness, sadness, surprise—this time based in science and recorded accurately with photography for use by artists. Here, Duchenne described the expression as that of a man who is “frozen and stupefied by terror; his face shows a dreadful mixture of horror and fear at the news of a danger that puts this life in peril or of inevitable torture.” Although Duchenne wrote that his model—this old, toothless, feebleminded soul—felt no pain from the electrical stimulation because of an anesthetic condition of the face, it is difficult not the feel a sense of pathos and to consider the genuine emotions he must have experienced.

Show lessRead more
  • Title: Terror from Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine ou Analyse électro-physiologique de l’expression des passions applicable à la pratique des arts plastiques (Mechanism of Human Physiognomy or Electro-Physiological Analysis of the Expression of Passions Applicable to the Practice of the Visuals Arts.)
  • Creator: Dr. Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne de Boulogne
  • Date: 1854 - 1856, printed 1862
  • Physical Dimensions: w15.9 x h21.9 cm (sheet)
  • Type: Photographs
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Albumen silver print from glass negative
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors

Additional Items

Recommended

Home
Explore
Nearby
Profile