Romantic Circles Gallery
Imitation and Approbation
The illustration in the bottom left corner of this image, Imitation and Approbation, features a caped man standing behind a table on a stage. In his hands he holds a skull marked by a phrenological map. Though identified by Cruikshank as “the Phrenologist himself,” the caped man evokes the idea of an actor or performer. Two skulls are also placed on the table as further phrenological examples. A seated crowd watches, applauding, from the right side of the illustration. Curiously, the gaze of the caped figure is hidden. Though he calls the viewer’s attention to the map of the skull he holds, the viewer cannot see where his gaze is focused because of his dark glasses. Two other figures do not look toward the mapped skull: one woman turns her face from the entire scene, perhaps metonymically representing all those who do not approve of the “drama” of phrenology; another woman at the center of the illustration reads a pamphlet or brochure she holds in her hands.
Copyright 2009, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
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Printing ContextCreated for Phrenological Illustrations. Phrenological Illustrations was published by George Cruikshank as a scrapbook and sold by Robbins, Humphrey, and Knight. The book of prints was issued uncolored for 8s., colored for 12s., and as large "India Proofs" for 20s (Douglas 24).
Associated TextsPhrenological Illustrations (1826)
Phrenological illustrations contains a short description of phrenology as taught by Gall and Spurzheim. It also includes short labels describing the organs associated with the propensities, sentiments, knowing faculties and reflecting faculties of humans, as well as explaining the various images illustrating these phrenological categories.
Phrenology, or, The Doctrine of the Mind (1825)
Phrenology is important to list here not only because of its publication date—so close to that of Cruikshank’s own work—but also because it is characteristic of the larger corpus of phrenological tracts. Spurzheim’s third edition of this book was published in 1825 and was one of five books extracted from a larger work entitled The Phsyiognomical System. Spurzheim’s stated goal in the publication of Phrenology was to collect “all that relates to the functions of the brain, or the physiological part of the physiognomical system” (Spurzheim v). The book first provides a general overview of phrenology, stressing the connection between the mind and the body and the brain’s role as the organ of the mind. After explaining that the brain itself is “an aggregate of organs,” Spurzheim draws connections between the size of each organ within the brain and an individual’s feelings, intellectual faculties, and perceptive faculties.
The organ of imitation is described as follows:
The existence of the faculty of imitation is proved in the same way as every other primitive power. It is in general more active in children than in adults; and it is known that children learn a great deal by imitation: they do what they see done by others; they repeat what they hear told. It differs much in adults, and is not at all proportionate to the other faculties. Those who have it large speak not with words only, they accompany all they say with appropriate and descriptive gestures, and imitate the voice, air and behavior of those who form the subjects of their conversation . . . The possession of the faculty of imitation is essential to success in the arts of drawing, sculpture, and painting; it gives what is called expression and life. Without it the productions of artists are stiff and inanimate. It aids orators essentially, by regulating their declamation and gesticulation. (Spurzheim 213-4).The organ of approbation, Spurzheim writes, is tied to vanity:
Vanity is natural to mankind, and in comparison with its frequency, Dr. Gall thinks pride a scarcity. Children even when very young are fond of approbation; emulation stimulates the youth to exertion; few adults are insensible to the voice of applause; and multitudes, governed by the feeling of ambition, sacrifice to it quiet, sleep, health, and even life . . . Dr. Gall discovered the organ of this sentiment whilst engaged in examining that of pride. Having met with an insane woman, who thought herself the queen of France, he was disappointed in his expectation of finding a large organ of pride. He, therefore, turned his attention to the rest of the head, and saw that the parts on each side of it were very prominent. (Spurzheim 177)
SubjectImitation and Approbation (1826) serves as a commentary on the popularity of phrenology itself; Cruikshank calls his viewers' attention to the approbation given these “scientists” as they teach their audiences to view each other by means of the mapped phrenological head.
SignificanceThe first of Cruikshank's "punning monographs," Phrenological Illustrations made use of the public's growing interest in scrapbooks or miscellanies to pun on the pseudo-science of phrenology as it grew in popularity (Patten, George Cruikshank's Life 259, 286f). Contemporary periodicals identified Phrenological Illustrations for its contributions "to the celebrity of [Deville’s and Spurzheim's] science," claiming that Cruikshank's work popularized phrenology even more than the phrenologists' lectures ("Phrenological Illustrations" 60). By illustrating the "'primitive' or 'natural' inclination of man" as explained by phrenologists, Cruikshank's work reveals the association between disfigurement and character as it was used by both phrenologists and caricaturists (Stafford 344).
FunctionSocial caricature satirized popular trends not simply in order to entertain but also to inform or alter public opinion. Caricatures of phrenology taught the “clinical gaze” by illustrating the pseudo-science’s usefulness (or lack thereof) in the interpretation of human appearance and—because the exterior or visible was here equated with the interior or unknown—in the reading of human character ( Foucault 103ff).
BibliographyCowling, Mary. The Artist as Anthropologist: The Representation of Type and Character in Victorian Art. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989. Print.
Cruikshank, George. Phrenological Illustrations. London: George Cruikshank, 1826. Print.
Douglas, Richard John Hardy. The Works of George Cruikshank Classified and Arranged. London: J. Davy & Sons, 1903. Print.
Foucault, Michel. The Birth of the Clinic. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.
Karp, Diane. "Madness, Mania, Melancholy: The Artist as Observer." Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 80.342 (1984): 1-24. Print.
McLaren, Angus. "Phrenology: Medium and Message." The Journal of Modern History 46.1 (1974): 86-97. Print.
Patten, Robert. "Conventions of Georgian Caricature." Art Journal 43.4 (1983): 331-8. Print.
Patten, Robert. George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art: 1792-1835. Vol. 1. Rutgers UP, 1992. Print.
"Phrenological Illustrations by Mr. George Cruickshank." National Magazine and General Review Nov. 1826: 60. Print.
The Phrenological Journal and Miscellany Vol. 3. (August, 1825 – October, 1826): Edinburgh, 1826. Print.
Spurzheim, Johann Kaspar. Phrenology, or, The Doctrine of the Mind. 3rd ed. London: Charles Knight, 1825. Print.
Stafford, Barbara Maria. Body Criticism: Imagining the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medicine. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991. Print.
Stafford, Barbara Maria. "From 'Brilliant Ideas' to 'Fitful Thoughts': Conjecturing the Unseen in Late Eighteenth-Century Art." Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte 48.3 (1985): 329-63. Print.
Long TitleXXXIII. Organ of Imitation.—As this is a faculty sui generis, as it belongs to none of the four genera already noticed, as it acts upon them all, and as the individuals possessing it ‘like to be actors,’ the Artist has taken the liberty of giving his illustration of it in the exhibition of the Phrenologist himself: plate 5. … XI. Organ of Approbation.—Craniologists consider the possession of this organ essential to society, as exciting other faculties, and producing emulation and the point of honour. The Artist has endeavoured to illustrate this organ in a manner consonant to the wishes of the admirers of the Phrenological system. Plate 5.
1 August 1826