An Early 20thC Plaster Model of a Human Skull on Ebonised Stand

Origin: English
Period: Early 20thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1910-30
Height: 6” or 7” on stand
Width: 5” or 10.25” diameter on stand
Depth: 7” or 10.25” diameter on stand

With a beautiful patina, the model human skull cast in plaster and hand painted in good detail with the suture lines showing, the whole possibly used for phrenological and medical study, surviving from the early twentieth century period on a nineteenth century ebonised circular stand.

The skull is in sound order and is pleasingly weighty. There is one hole to the cranium as photographed. The stand is in good order and may or may not be associated to the skull itself but works well proportionately.

Based on the idea that as the skull takes its shape from the brain, the surface of the skull can be read as an index of psychological aptitudes and tendencies, skulls such as this were part of the jigsaw of Victorian medical study. Derived from the theories of the idiosyncratic Viennese physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), phrenology was a faculty psychology, theory of brain and science of character reading, and what the nineteenth century phrenologists called "the only true science of mind”.

This example may have been used in this way but also may have been a stage or theatre prop.

Unlike more modern resin copies, this skull has a wonderful patina and weight, and its surface, one feels, is forever trying to tell a story.