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Phrenological head

Porcelain model of a natural-sized human head, which shows the different areas of the brain that supposedly governed each of the basic functions of human activity.

Phrenology first appeared at the end of the 18th century with the works of the Austrian neurologist F.J. Gall. It was most popular in the first third of the 19th century and argued that it was possible to understand people’s character and personality traits (and even their possible criminal tendencies) by analysing the shape of their skull, head and facial features. Mariano Cubí y Soler (1801-1875) was a Catalan with Italian roots who emigrated to America at a very young age. He was educated in the United States and Cuba, where he qualified as a schoolteacher. In the Cuban capital, Havana, he founded the island’s first secondary school, together with a Spanish colleague, a huge step forward that he would later repeat in Mexico. His interest in phrenology led him to travel practically the length and breadth of Spain. During his travels to promote these ideas, he was criticized, mocked and even tried by the ecclesiastical tribunal in Santiago. This piece was designed by Cubí in 1845, during a trip to Seville, for an English merchant called Pickam who had set up a factory in the monastery of La Cartuja (Sevilla) in 1838 to make porcelain china and fine crockery decorated in the English style.

Dimensions:
38.5 x 20 x 20 cm 
Medium/support:
Porcelain 
Cultural context:
1845 
Artist:
Mariano Cubí y Soler