By Martin Porter
In early glossy Europe there has been a small team of books at the paintings of physiognomy which claimed to supply self-knowledge via an interpretation of exterior positive aspects. The authors of those books defined how the eyes, the face, and all of nature's typical our bodies turned home windows of the soul. in addition to the spreading effect of the 'Egyptian', the normal magic of the language of physiognomy turned a manner of having a look and listening that a few suggestion in a position to recapturing the unique divine characters of the normal, hieroglyphic language of guy. within the experimental mind's eye of the English Renaissance magus Robert Fludd, the artwork of physiognomy was once mixed with the humanities of reminiscence and astrology. below the effect of the spiritual turmoils of the Reformation, and the slow institution of a brand new realizing of the physics of the area via the 17th century's new usual philosophers, the airtight physiognomy that was once visible via a few as a self-transformative type of praying within which one's soul resonated with the soul of the area grew to become, within the eyes of many others, not anything greater than an fun online game. Dr Porter makes use of remnants of the hugely illustrated and graffitied texts on physiognomy to interpret the way in which that those books have been learn and considered, and hint the alterations that came about among the tip of the center a long time and the start of Romanticism.
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Additional info for Windows of the Soul: Physiognomy in European Culture 1470-1780
M. Hunter, G. Mandelbrote, R. Ovenden, and N. Smith (1999), 134, 206, 216, and 266. ]); Le compost et kalendrier des bergiers (Geneva, 1497); Der Schapherders Kalender (Rostock, 1523). ¹⁶ Johannes de Indagine, Introductiones apotelesmaticae (Strasburg/Frankfurt, 1522), 15; Die kunst der chiromantzey (Strasburg, 1523). 12 ‘Windows of the Soul’: Physiognomy in European Culture, 1470–1780 The last of the four, entered in the register as ‘Natures chief Rarities’, was an unrecorded 1660 English publication of a medieval Latin tract written at the thirteenth-century court of the German King and Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II (1194–1250), by a Scottish natural philosopher named Michael Scot.
The fact that La Mettrie’s diagnostic medical gaze was concerned with the ‘character’ of the patient is signiﬁcant enough for a physician at a time when learned medicine had become more concerned with what the English physician Thomas Sydenham called the ‘face of the disease’ than with the physiognomy of the patient. Even more striking is that La Mettrie, in his typically playful way, then explicitly cited a passage from the aforementioned writings of Athanasius Kircher: but the surest way would be to make them sing; the various nuances of the voice do not show themselves enough in talking; .
When taken together, the strands of this small textual cobweb in the Jeake library which I have just outlined conveniently symbolize the fact that throughout Europe there was something of a now forgotten, but at the time still active, shared ‘canon’ of literature on the subject of ‘physiognomy’ in circulation from the beginning to the end of the early modern period. Those ‘books on physiognomy’ contained, among many other things, claims about the ‘occult’ properties of all natural bodies, not just the eyes or the moles of a human being, be it the ‘occult virtues’ of a particular plant, the physical and mental attributes of a certain planet or sign of the zodiac, the occult phenomena of the ‘antipathy’ and ‘sympathy’ that regulated the relationships between those natural bodies, and, more speciﬁc to the physiognomy of the human body, the actual meaning (as opposed to, but not always exclusive of an explanation of the physiological or humoral mechanics) of a human being’s physical features.
Windows of the Soul: Physiognomy in European Culture 1470-1780 by Martin Porter