Reading the Body: Physiognomics

The Bench
Title The Bench (with the Five Orders of Periwigs)
Artist William Hogarth
Date 1758 (reprinted 1822)
Medium Etching and Engraving
Location The Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University

This unfinished print stresses the distinction between Character and Caricature that Hogarth makes in Characters Caricaturas (1743) and Analysis of Beauty (1753). Character, when done well should reveal the true nature of a person, while caricature is mere burlesque. The inscription below is significant to the development of physiognomy as an artistic and scientific practice:

It has ever been allow'd that, when a Character is strongly mark'd in the living Face, it may be considered as an Index of the mind, to express which with any degree of justness in Painting requires the utmost Efforts of a great Master


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