The life and death masks of Scotland’s dangerous and insane

They were cast as part of a 19th Century fashion to determine the personality traits of the criminal and the insane by examining the shape of their heads.

Monday, 28th January 2019, 4:24 pm
Updated Monday, 28th January 2019, 4:26 pm

Now a fascinating collection of life and death masks is on show at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery following a loan from the Anatomical Museum at Edinburgh University. Murderers Burke and Hare were among those to have their heads cast.

An amazing collection of life and death masks has gone on display at Scottish National Portrait Gallery with the heads of criminals and those confined to asylums cast during the 19th Century.
Murderers Burke and Hare were among those to have their heads cast after death as the 19th Century interest in phrenology grew. PIC: Phillip Hunt/National Galleries of Scotland.

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Phrenology was the study of the skull in relation to personality and behaviour.
Phrenologists believed the brain was made up of different organs or zones which corresponded to different attributes like secretiveness and assertiveness.
Phrenologists believed believed that bumps would form on certain parts of the head to indicate a particular personality trait although the approach quickly fell out of fashion.