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Chapter 2 - Fuseli’s Physiognomic Impressions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 October 2021

Stephanie O'Rourke
Affiliation:
University of St Andrews, Scotland

Summary

The second chapter revisits the work of Henry Fuseli, an artist whose notoriously distorted representations of the male nude puzzled viewers. Yet Fuseli remained significantly invested, intellectually and artistically, in the legibility of the body: for more than two decades, the Swiss-born, London-based artist collaborated with his childhood friend Johann Lavater on a treatise on physiognomy, the study of the face to determine man’s inner traits. As part of his effort to transform physiognomy into a modern empirical science, Lavater placed great emphasis on the physical correspondence between the external appearance of the body and its internal, imperceptible truths. However, Fuseli often represented bodies that could not be read according to the criteria of Lavater’s system. In doing so, the artist called into question not just physiognomy but the underlying claims on which it was based, unveiling a world in which “appearance” and “truth” fail to correspond.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

In 1790, the Swiss-born, London-based artist Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) submitted Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent (Figure 2.1) to the Royal Academy as his Diploma painting, a work of art traditionally given to the Academy upon one’s election as member. In the center of the composition, Thor – monumental and dramatically foreshortened – prepares to strike the Midgard Serpent, whose slick, sinuous form writhes beneath him. The painting marked Fuseli’s acceptance into Britain’s most prestigious body of professional artists; but much about it would have struck his contemporaries as rather strange. The painting’s subject matter, based on a compilation of Old Norse mythology known as the Prose Edda, was relatively obscure. More than this, though, it was Fuseli’s dramatic vertical composition, forceful contrast of light and dark, and exaggerated treatment of the human body that set it apart from conventional academic history paintings. Thor’s hyperbolic musculature and contorted pose exemplified the artist’s intense and unusual fascination with the expressive capacities of the male nude body, which was subjected to spectacular exaggerations, distortions, and reconfigurations in Fuseli’s work. Redolent of gendered and psychosexual conflict, these bodies appear, to use art historian Martin Myrone’s words, to be “impossible bodies, corporeal conundrums.”1 In a moment when the idealized male body was central to academic neoclassicism, in other words, Fuseli painted bodies that teetered on the edge of simply not making sense to their viewers.

Figure 2.1 Henry Fuseli, Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent, 1790, oil on canvas. Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Yet Fuseli was significantly invested, both artistically and intellectually, in certain forms of corporeal legibility. For decades the artist was involved with the popular subject of physiognomy, the study of a person’s outer appearance to determine their inner traits. Physiognomy presupposed that, among other things, the visible surface of the body provides its viewer with unambiguous access to truth; and although the subject was well known and widely practiced in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Fuseli’s knowledge of it was exceptional. In the late 1770s, the artist’s childhood friend Johann Caspar Lavater published a multivolume treatise on the subject that sought to remake physiognomy into a modern Enlightenment science. Fuseli consulted extensively on Lavater’s project, providing numerous illustrations and shepherding the book through its translation into English by Henry Hunter. In the years that followed, the text was reprinted, translated, and abridged so widely that it has been characterized as the largest publishing project throughout Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century.2

How might one go about physiognomically analyzing Thor’s body, though? His acutely foreshortened head, far too small for his body, is wedged uncomfortably into thick shoulder muscles. On the left, his arm emerges from a tangle of drapery at an angle that implies its total dislocation from the rest of the body. The leg on the right, whose foot is merely suggested by a few compressed toes, culminates in a boulder-like assemblage of bone and tendon that, despite nominally designating a knee, is difficult to distinguish from the musculature of the torso. The clustered, bulging pockets of flesh that comprise his body indicate neither local anatomical groupings nor their discrete functions: Thor’s extravagant musculature is segmented and detailed without actually being anatomized or specific. In short, it is a body that seems incompatible with the model of physiognomic analysis that, in 1790, Fuseli was still actively helping Lavater to promote.

Fuseli, most famous today for his painting The Nightmare of 1781 (Figure 2.14), belonged to a generation of artists in Britain who were following in but also deviating from the Grand Manner tradition institutionalized by first-generation academic history painters. Like de Loutherbourg, who was nearly the same age, he was an immigrant from continental Europe known for his idiosyncratic style; and although there is little evidence to suggest the two men particularly liked each other, both participated in an important period of transition for the Academy as its founding members began to retire and die. Unlike de Loutherbourg, though, Fuseli was a classically educated man of letters who was largely self-trained as an artist. He proved to be much more committed to history painting as a genre, the “classical tradition,” and the pictorial importance of the male body. Unsurprisingly, Fuseli attained a degree of professional acceptance that eluded his Alsatian colleague, eventually becoming a Professor of Painting and Keeper at the Royal Academy.

Several of Fuseli’s contemporaries – including James Barry, Thomas Banks, William Blake, Thomas Lawrence, and Alexander Runciman – imagined new, alternative possibilities for the idealized male nude figure in response to an interrelated set of social and artistic transformations.3 Together they pushed back against what Mark Ledbury has described as the “elaborately worked-out gestural and bodily vocabulary” of academic neoclassical history painting then exemplified by the work of Benjamin West and others.4 In this context, Fuseli’s recourse to obscure and dramatic narratives; his portrayal of strange, fantastical, even grotesque bodies; and his courting of sensationalism have been understood as a calculated reply to the demands of an increasingly modern marketplace for art alongside a growing audience for various kinds of exhibitions.5 The concomitant rise of consumer culture in Britain was, to be sure, part of a wider set of social transformations to which artists and viewers alike were responding.6 Yet Fuseli’s art, I propose, did more than this: it participated in a debate taking place around the turn of the century about the capacity of the human body to represent certain kinds of scientific knowledge.7 His were not the only paintings to challenge artistic conventions about the portrayal of the idealized male nude in this period. However, as the artist’s collaboration with Lavater makes clear, this had vivid intellectual stakes for Fuseli that extended far beyond the parameters of academic discourse and its social context.

Throughout their collaboration, Fuseli and Lavater frequently disagreed about how the science of physiognomy ought to be represented and reproduced. Theirs was a passionate friendship whose latter years were characterized by bitter conflict and eventual estrangement. At the root of their protracted disagreements was the mutually acknowledged fact that Fuseli’s works never really worked according to the conventions of Lavater’s system. Instead of legible bodies Fuseli painted a world rife with narrative dissonances and perceptual obscurities, in which the boundaries between visible and invisible as well as natural and supernatural were thrown into unprecedented disarray.8 Given Fuseli’s extensive familiarity with Lavaterian physiognomy, the degree to which his painted bodies elude physiognomic analysis is all the more striking. Indeed, the pictorial distortions, perceptual obscurities, dramatic compositions, and above all the exaggerated bodies found in the artist’s drawings, prints, and paintings seem, at times, to outright contradict Lavater’s key assertions about physiognomy and several mainstream empirical precepts upon which they were founded.

This chapter explores the precise nature of the scientific claims put forward in Lavaterian physiognomy and the status of visual representation within that system, in order to better understand its significance for Fuseli’s artistic production. Doing so suggests how we might come to reconsider some of the formal features of the artist’s work more broadly, beyond its representation of the human body. If de Loutherbourg’s paintings grappled with the limitations of human perception and the elemental instability of the natural world, I propose that Fuseli’s challenged a distinct but related premise, namely that the body can present visible, reliable information about itself. This premise was central to Lavaterian physiognomy and – crucially – to the larger claims Lavater put forward about the evidentiary status of the natural world. Moreover, we can locate these claims within larger trends in Enlightenment scientific thought. Lavater called upon widely recognized empirical precepts to shore up the scientific validity of his analysis: the reliability of direct observation; man’s perceptual acuity and rational intellect; and a world whose perceptible features accurately correspond to its imperceptible, underlying truths. These were scientific principles, in other words, that were in no way limited to physiognomy. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, however, Fuseli’s “corporeal conundrums,” by calling into question the evidentiary status of the body’s appearance, expressed significant doubts about the empirical mechanisms through which Lavater proposed that man could produce knowledge about the entire world.

Whether or not Fuseli deliberately created artworks that subverted Lavater’s system, it was an intellectual context in which the artist was immersed for a considerable portion of his life; moreover, one of its defining features was the status it accorded to visual representation. To cordon Fuseli’s pictures off from this context would be to suppress the artist’s wide-ranging intellectual concerns, on the one hand, and his quite extensive, detailed knowledge of physiognomic principles on the other. Whereas de Loutherbourg’s engagement with mesmerism was often oblique, Fuseli’s artistic production was directly involved with Lavater’s system. Consequently, this chapter attends closely to Lavater’s ideas about representation, knowledge, and the body. It is these very ideas that, I argue, are amplified, contested, and distorted in Fuseli’s illustrations for Lavater – illustrations in which appearance and reality find themselves misaligned. From this vantage point we can consider how Fuseli’s art, even outside the immediate context of physiognomy, is animated by and dwells on related forms of misalignment, on fractured relationships between what can be seen and what can be known. Fuseli’s work comes into view as a pictorial field that probes both the limitations and failings of Lavaterian physiognomy as well as the broader empirical precepts upon which it relied.

Essays on Physiognomy

To understand what was unique to Lavater’s system, it is necessary to first outline how it differed from earlier variants of physiognomy and issued new claims about the subject’s scientific legitimacy. In the most general terms, physiognomy assumes that the visible appearance of the body corresponds to or conveys information about that body’s invisible traits. Practiced with some degree of popularity since antiquity and significantly revived in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, early systems of physiognomy typically linked the visual features of a man’s face to his interior traits through resemblance and metaphor: for example, one might claim that a man whose face resembles a lion is likely to possess leonine traits such as courage.9 The French academician Charles Le Brun departed meaningfully from this tradition in his posthumously published Conférence sur l’expression générale et particulière in 1698, which was inspired by the work of the seventeenth-century philosopher René Descartes. Rather than rely on metaphor, Le Brun followed Descartes in attributing the appearance of the face to mechanisms within the human body itself. Specifically, it was claimed that expression results from the movement of subtle fluids or “animal spirits” toward and away from the brain.10 Unsurprising given that it was penned by one of the most influential French artists of the seventeenth century, Conférence sur l’expression had a lasting impact on French academic training and artistic production.11 Yet by the mid-eighteenth century it was also routinely criticized for its exaggerated illustrations, rigid system of causality, and inattention to nuance.12

Although by no means the only European thinker writing on physiognomy in the final decades of the eighteenth century, Lavater authored what was by far the most well-known and influential treatise on the subject. His was a decidedly Enlightenment model of physiognomy that explicitly claimed to be a scientifically grounded study of the permanent features of the face. Lavater defined it as, “the ability to know the interior of man by his exterior – to perceive by certain natural indices that which does not immediately strike the senses.”13 This brief definition is, among other things, a subtle rejection of the Cartesian rationalism that informed Le Brun’s earlier text. It syntactically aligns Lavaterian physiognomy’s two key operations: “to perceive” and “to know.” Indeed, Lavater was quite explicit on this score, writing that “all the knowledge we can obtain of man must be gained through the medium of our senses.”14 In its emphasis on the authority of man’s observational powers, supported by his perceptual acuity and rational intellect, this Enlightenment variant of physiognomy was likewise sympathetic to the epistemological priority granted to direct observation by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century empiricist doctrines.15

The second feature that was central to Lavater’s claims to scientific credibility was his emphasis on man’s permanent facial features rather than his expressions. Doing so, Lavater proposed, facilitated a more systematic and geometrically grounded approach to the body. Lavater’s analysis began with an examination of the frontal “form” of the face, proceeded to the profile, determined the “perpendicular length” of forehead, nose, and chin, and considered their relative “perpendicular differences.”16 Thence he imagined a line connecting the root of the nose to the foremost point of the upper lip. Such observations enable one to identify “points which are fixed, and of easy determination” on the face, from which the rest of the analysis can unfold. This process figures the body as a spatial matrix whose features can be mapped according to secure, measurable coordinates. The procedural method the text describes – like the geometric terminology it used – exemplifies Lavater’s efforts to conform to the increasingly codified conventions of scientific writing.17 Indeed, Lavater dedicated an entire chapter of his text to the assertion of its newfound scientific credentials. To this Fuseli was sympathetic, defending Lavaterian physiognomy as a genuine science that required detailed explication.18 Readers took note. As one posthumous review wrote, “The physiognomic science to which Lavater gave much authority and development had been regarded, not even twenty-five years earlier, as a ridiculous art almost as useless as astrology.”19

Despite Lavater’s claims to the contrary, his system of physiognomy, like many earlier variants, was steeped in heterodox and spiritualist doctrines. He was a reputed eccentric and a known practitioner of Puységar’s second-generation brand of mesmerism, which Lavater famously used to cure his wife of a vague chronic illness.20 Having been ordained alongside Fuseli as a Zwinglian minister in his youth, Lavater repeatedly referenced the principle of imago Dei (that is, the belief that God created man in His own image) in his text. On the basis of this Divine resemblance, Lavater insisted that the physiognomic study of mankind doubled as a form of Christian worship.21

Regardless of these heterodox associations, his work gained widespread fame throughout Europe. As Lavater’s eulogy in The Gentleman’s Magazine of London affirmed, “in Switzerland, in Germany, in France, even in Britain, all the world became passionate admirers of the Physiognomical Science of Lavater”:

In the enthusiasm with which [his books] were studied and admired, they were thought as necessary in every family as even the bible itself. A servant would, at one time, scarcely be hired till the descriptions and engravings of Lavater had been consulted, in careful comparison with the lines and features of the young man’s or woman’s countenance.22

The “descriptions and engravings of Lavater” to which the eulogy refers took many forms but originated as a large folio-sized multivolume book, Physiognomischen Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe, published between 1775 and 1778. Lavater was closely involved with an official French edition that shortly followed, the first three volumes of which appeared between 1781 and 1786 and a final installment in 1803. The French edition was no mere translation of the original German; Lavater significantly expanded and drastically reorganized the text as well as its illustrations. Inspired by its success, two competing English translations were begun in the 1780s. The first was modest and sparsely illustrated three-volume octavo set by Thomas Holcroft, which was based on a German-language abridgment by J. M. Armbruster, appearing from 1789 to 1793. The second, a lavish and comprehensive English translation of the initial volumes of the expanded and revised French text, was again undertaken with Lavater’s direct involvement. Three quarto volumes in five parts, translated by Henry Hunter and published by John Murray and Hunter, were printed between 1789 and 1798. Because of its near-comprehensive nature and Lavater’s direct involvement, I take Hunter’s translation to be the definitive original English translation.23 Yet it is critical to acknowledge that, in the years that followed, Lavater’s original text was reproduced, abridged, and translated with a frequency unprecedented and unrivaled in its time. By 1810, there were at least twenty English, sixteen German, fifteen French, and two American editions.24 It is probable that at the turn of the nineteenth century the vast majority Europe’s literate society would have had some direct or indirect knowledge of Lavaterian physiognomy.

Fuseli’s Impressions

One of the reasons that Fuseli’s role in Lavater’s project was particularly important lay in the books’ unique reliance upon their illustrations, in both functional and conceptual terms. Lavater’s multivolume treatise put forward a system for analyzing the visible surface of the body in order to determine its underlying truths. As such, it was, implicitly, a system predicated on the foundational correspondence between that body’s appearance and reality. Of course, Lavater’s readers were not trained through the direct study of bodies; they were limited to the study of the books’ illustrations, which were extensively described and analyzed within the main body of the text. On a very practical level, then, the images were of singular importance – his method could only be explicated through reference to printed visual data, which is to say, through reference to engraved illustrations or “plates.” One reviewer remarked that if Lavater’s illustrations were inadequate “the whole work would have been a chaos”:

In most works where engravings are introduced, the plates can be considered as nothing more than mere embellishments. In the work now before us this is by no means the case. The plates here are essentially necessary: they are indeed the text which the author illustrates.25

The very first mention of Lavater’s project in the British press expressed a similar sentiment: “A set of plates constitutes the basis or most essential part of the work.”26 Katharina Elisabeth Goethe, mother of the Romantic poet and philosopher Johann von Goethe, was more frank in a letter to Lavater: “What would a ‘Physiognomy’ be without plates!”27 Thus Fuseli’s designs for Lavater were critical to the project’s success: without proper illustrations, the text would be meaningless. The collaboration between Lavater and Fuseli, although grounded in years of close friendship, was fraught from the start. Fuseli’s illustrations were deemed too expressive, too exaggerated to accurately convey objective information. In what follows, however, it will become clear that much more significant issues were also at stake.

Both born in Zurich in 1741, they had been educated together and later ordained together. Shortly after their ordination in the reformed Zwinglian church, Fuseli and Lavater published a pamphlet decrying the corruption of a local magistrate. The two men went to Germany to wait for the scandal to abate and shortly thereafter Fuseli, already an accomplished linguist, was sent to London as a literary envoy between the English- and German-speaking publishing worlds. Lavater first asked Fuseli to contribute illustrations for his text almost ten years before the initial German edition was published. Unlike many of the European artists who eventually produced illustrations for Lavater’s books, Fuseli corresponded with Lavater on nearly every aspect of the text: its theoretical precepts and practical applications, its illustrations and their reproduction as prints, its translation, and even its physical size as a book.28 As early as 1768, however, the two men were quarreling over the illustrations for the first German edition. Fuseli, who had never undergone formal training and was not yet an established professional artist, bristled at Lavater’s controlling demeanor. At the urging of Academy President Sir Joshua Reynolds, Fuseli then moved to Rome where he lived from 1770 to 1778 studying art and refining his techniques.

While Fuseli was in Italy, Lavater grew highly critical of the artist’s physiognomic illustrations, which he deemed too idiosyncratic, dramatic, and exaggerated. Fuseli objected to his friend’s interference and complained about the limitations imposed by small-scale printmaking. In 1773, Fuseli threatened to quit the project: “I find myself neither applied nor skilled (and I speak the truth) to draw physiognomies to go nine to a quarter sheet … I need space, height, depth, length.”29 With their friendship on the verge of a break Lavater relented in 1774, writing, “draw for me whatever you like, – I was a fool to tell you what to draw.”30 In the end, Fuseli contributed just one attributed drawing to the German edition, the engravings for which were overseen by Johann Rudolph Schellenberg and Johann Heinrich Lips. His Head of a Dying Man was printed as an unsigned stipple engraving by Schellenberg in 1775 and in a smaller format, also by Schellenberg, in 1778. Fuseli’s dispute with Lavater was renewed in the late 1770s and early 1780s during the preparation of the significantly expanded French edition and its subsequent translation by Henry Hunter. In 1779, a desperate and frustrated Lavater asked Goethe to contribute some illustrations in Fuseli’s place but was refused. Goethe demurred that Fuseli would “certainly express the idea stronger, greater, and more accurately.”31 Once he was finally granted greater artistic autonomy by Lavater, Fuseli produced more than two dozen illustrations for the French Essai sur la physiognomonie and subsequent Hunter translation into English. The expanded and reworked manuscript highlighted Fuseli’s contribution, devoting several pages to a discussion of Fuseli’s art and his character.

As this brief history indicates, Fuseli and Lavater had conflicting aims from the start. Lavater needed illustrations that conveyed precise and factual information – “epistemic images” in the sense defined by the historian Lorraine Daston: images which provide enough scientific information that they can effectively stand in for the thing they represent.32 Fuseli, on the other hand, was at the beginning of his career as a professional artist. The very features for which his art would eventually become famous – his flair for theatricality, exaggeration, and expression – were at odds with the informational imperatives of an epistemic image. Fuseli had his own reputation to look after and his own style to cultivate. From the perspective of a historian, it would be easy enough to leave it at that, to say that Fuseli and Lavater were simply “mismatched” and, consequently, disagreed about how the text should be illustrated. Yet there are crucial things this assumption overlooks. As reviewers of the books make clear, illustrations were not simply accessories to Lavaterian physiognomy – it was a system exceptionally invested in the mechanisms by which nature’s truths are visually represented and thus known to man. It is to Fuseli’s illustrations for Lavater, then, that we must turn in order to consider how and why those mechanisms could falter.

Facts and Facsimiles

The protracted disputes between the two men indicate that the illustrations for Lavaterian physiognomy faced a structural problem that was intimately connected with the production of the books themselves. The very plates register some of the challenges, both practical and intellectual, in which the entire program of illustrations was mired. After Fuseli provided additional illustrations for the expanded French edition, the artist was greatly displeased with the result. He believed that the engravers had done a poor job replicating his designs. When attention turned to an English translation, Fuseli was adamant that the illustrations be reengraved. In this, he was supported by Thomas Holloway, who was responsible for overseeing the illustrations of the Hunter edition. Lavater strenuously objected to new engravings. On a practical level, this posed a considerable expense. More importantly, though, Lavater was concerned that he would have to rewrite some of his text to match the updated illustrations. In the end, a compromise was reached: Fuseli was eventually able to have some of the French plates reengraved under the supervision of himself and Holloway, but these were printed alongside facsimiles of the original French engravings. The resulting edition expanded the French illustrations to include 173 engraved plates and facsimiles as well as 364 engravings within the text produced by over 30 engravers.

To more precisely understand the conflict between Fuseli and Lavater, one need only to consult the pages of the Hunter translation itself. For example, the original French and English translations included a portrait of Satan (Figure 2.2), a figure to whom Fuseli returned time and again. In this design, conceived in the late 1770s by Fuseli while on his way back from Rome, power is evoked through the muscular virility of Satan’s neck, which expands from the bottom of the print. In its scale and the breadth of its visible surface, the neck rivals the compact features of the face. Yet it offers very little by way of detail, offering instead a suggestive anatomical pulsing that swells at its base. Detail is concentrated around the nose and brow of Satan, which are both rendered as dense, rippling protrusions. His eyes are unusually round, their pupils dilated and lids pulled back widely, and his lips pucker in a sneer. Lavater identified in the French illustration facial features that are “menacing from rage” but that “are at the same time disturbed by fear.”33 When the illustration was reengraved by Holloway for the second volume of English edition, a footnote was added to the text as corrective from Fuseli: “The Engraver has consulted the designer and followed the Original, the mouth of which expresses contempt instead of fear.”34

Figure 2.2 Thomas Holloway after Henry Fuseli, Satan, from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), 285.

This intervention by Fuseli, one of several found in the Hunter translation, suggests that the reader, upon comparing Lavater’s analysis and Fuseli’s revised illustration, will confront a problem: an image that conveys contempt and a textual analysis of the image which claims that it conveys fear. Here we find Fuseli continuing to disagree with Lavater, but not, it should be noted, with the basic premise – namely, that subtle variations in how a face is represented do convey meaningfully different things and that these things will be visually evident to the reader upon comparing them. It is worth recalling that this volume appeared two years after Fuseli submitted Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent to the Royal Academy. In some ways the artist clearly remained invested in the assertion that the human form does communicate precise information to its viewer and that this information resides in the representation of subtle but perceptible visual details.

The conflict between Fuseli’s illustrations and Lavater’s text was more pronounced in the artist’s portrait of Lavater’s niece, Martha Hess (Figure 2.3), which first appeared in the French translation. Like most of the book’s illustrations, it is presented alongside sustained textual analysis by Lavater, who uses features found in the portrait as the basis for physiognomic interpretation. Hess’s smooth brow, restrained pout, and softly curved chin were among the elements that led Lavater to conclude that “nature has imprinted on [her face] the image of gentleness and benignity.”35 Yet Lavater was sharply critical of the illustration itself, which he believed to be a misrepresentation of Hess’s true profile. He criticizes the “irregular design of the eye, the immoderate lengthening of the nose, and the harshness of several other features … which does not belong to the character of this face.”36 He supposes that Fuseli intended to ennoble his subject, “to introduce an expression of greatness, but, as he managed it, that expression has degenerated into hardness.”

Figure 2.3 Thomas Holloway after Henry Fuseli, Martha Hess, from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), 314.

Fuseli disagreed. His portrait, he protested, was accurate; it was merely the engraver who had disfigured it in the French edition in which the portrait first appeared. Because Lavater had refused to rewrite this description for the English reengraving, a facsimile of the French illustration was presented alongside the new plate whose caption served as a riposte: “If the author’s criticisms should to the English Reader appear unfounded on comparing the Text with the Plate, he is informed that the Designer of the Original Head claims the right of restoring his own lines and leaves the Engraver of the French Edition in full possession of the Censure.” Fuseli’s editorial intrusions appear to have been a response to maladroit outline engravings from the French translation, but they create divergent imperatives: an image can resemble the “original” Fuselian design or the “original” Lavaterian text. The closer an image is aligned with one, the greater threat it poses to the other.

Beyond the sheer practical necessity for text and image to correspond, Fuseli’s dispute with Lavater had deeper implications. I take it to be a conflict that was also about the evidentiary stability of representation and reproduction – how accurately an illustration could represent the appearance of an individual and how reliably an engraving could reproduce that illustration. If the correspondence between body and image, and between image and plate, could not be secured, then the efficacy of Lavater’s treatise was in doubt. This correspondence, it transpires, was even more foundational for the project. It was one of the precepts on which its dearly held claims to scientific legitimacy were based.

Printed Bodies

Lavater’s system proposed that the body itself functions like a printed representation. This was rooted in the very feature that emphatically set Lavaterian physiognomy apart from the versions that preceded it. Whereas Le Brun and others had studied fleeting and superficial facial expressions, Lavater’s method prioritized the permanent bone structure of the skull. He categorized the former as mere “pathognomy,” an unambiguous critique of Le Brun’s “unscientific” study of unreliable, variable facial expressions.37 This distinction was important. Fuseli described it at length in 1789 in an extensive and enthusiastic defense of physiognomy that was printed at the beginning of Hunter’s English translation: “Men in their fears generally confound our science with pathognomy.”38 Pathognomy concerns “whatever relates to habit, whatever arises from the moment of action, the burst of passions,” whereas, Fuseli continues, “physiognomy is the mother of correctness, by ascertaining from the measure of the solid parts the precise portion of the moveable … Let the twelfth part of an inch be added to, or taken from, the space between the nose and the upper-lip of the Apollo, and the god is lost.” It is a telling passage. First, Fuseli’s language (“our science”) reminds us of the artist’s ongoing affiliation with Lavaterian physiognomy, despite more than two decades of discord with its author. Second, and of greater relevance here, is his use of the Apollo Belvedere as a prime example of physiognomy’s truth. Fuseli attributes the success of that renowned work of classical sculpture to the precise rendering of quantitatively measurable facial features. He indicates that art’s representational capacity is rooted in the accurate depiction of the human body through the proportions uncovered by physiognomic analysis. Put differently, for a work of art to truly represent its subject, it needs to faithfully reproduce the means by which the exterior body represents the inner self. Visual representation is not merely how one illustrates Lavaterian physiognomy; it is how the body itself conveys information.

Lavater actually put forward a very specific explanation of how, exactly, this works. Although key to his bid for scientific legitimacy, Lavater’s emphasis on cranial structure would become one of the most disturbing and pernicious legacies of his system insofar as it was used to support ideas about racial difference in the emergent field of comparative anatomy and, later, eugenics.39 The account of bone growth offered by his text was considered by many reviewers to be both the most scientifically legitimate and the most broadly applicable aspect of his system.40 Lavater argued that bone growth begins during gestation, when the fetus’s “soft mucilaginous substance, homogeneous in all its parts,” gradually hardens into cartilage and then bone.41 As it hardens, the skull is “visibly fitted to the mass of the substances which it contains and follows their growth at every age of human life. Thus the exterior form of the brain which imprints itself perfectly on the interior surface of the skull, is at the same time the model of the contours on the exterior surface.”42 What is being described, in fact, is a process of positive and negative impressions being made. The contours of the brain serve as a positive image that “imprints itself perfectly” onto the interior surface of the skull. This surface resembles the brain as an inverted image, which is reversed once again as the design is transferred from the interior surface of the skull to its exterior. The perceptible exterior of the head is the result of a series of repetitions and inversions from brain to skull and from skull to face. As one French reviewer described it, the result of this process “will always be solid, determinate, durable, and perceivable, and will bear the marks of the invariable principles of human character.”43 This applies to more than just the face: although Lavaterian physiognomy primarily addresses the underlying bone structure of the head, it considers the skeletal system as a whole, evaluating in considerable detail man’s ears, feet, hands, teeth, and hair. One of the first English-language reviews of Lavater’s French translation summarized this logic as follows:

Each part preserves the impression and character of the whole, and is (as our Author speaks) the cause or effect of one individuality. We cannot, continues he, repeat it too often, that every thing in man characterizes man; that … we may conclude from the part to the whole, and from the whole to each part.44

The same process that shapes the face takes place throughout the body, making each part representative of the whole individual. This is a form of printmaking that occurs very literally within the body but also in a metaphorical sense, under the supervision of a Divine Printmaker: in his introduction Lavater proclaims that all human beings “bear all the impress of [God’s] marvellous wisdom.”45 Even in the most functional terms, Lavater’s text assumes a reciprocity between looking at a printed illustration and looking at a body. As a treatise exclusively reliant upon prints to illustrate its method, it asks the reader to draw conclusions from the former as if she or he were in the presence of the latter. These acts are so commensurate that Lavater bases conclusive physiognomic analyses on printed and painted portraits as if they were conducted in person, affirming their status as epistemic images.

Contemporary reviews of Lavater’s text noted the triadic relationship it proposed between representation, knowledge, and the body. The Monthly Review, for example, wrote that “the mind is painted on the countenance by nature.”46 However, a much more specific configuration was at work: the scientific legitimacy and empirical authority of Lavaterian physiognomy were predicated on the idea that the surface of the body acts like a print, that it is a print. Moreover, this is a print that can be readily and fully apprehended through man’s innate visual acuity. Unlike a conventional print, though, the physiognomic body contains both the matrix and its printed surface, the former being merely concealed internally beneath the visible exterior of the body. As such it constitutes a chain of indexical transfer and resemblance lacking the metaphorics of loss, absence, and death that Georges Didi-Huberman and others have attributed to the “imprint.”47 Rather than a print predicated on the absence of that which has left its trace, Lavater’s readers encounter an object of corporeal self-representation – in which the self and its visible representation are causally related and copresent. Returning to the book’s illustrations with this in mind, we can consider how printed bodies might strive but still fail to meet the criteria of self-representation.

Four Heads

As I have indicated, Lavater’s was a project that was deeply invested in the evidentiary status of visual representation in both practical and epistemological terms: the prints found in the original German, French, and English editions were essential to the successful explication of Lavater’s method, but they were also emblematic of the model of corporeal self-representation on which that method based its claim to produce legitimate knowledge. Yet, as captured by the dispute concerning Fuseli’s portrait Martha Hess, human-made images can be imperfect, imprecise things. The engraved portraits that comprise most of the book’s illustrations cannot always be relied upon to perfectly represent their subject, whether inaccurately depicted by the original artist or distorted by the hand of the engraver who translates the original design to the printing matrix.

Lavater was sensitive to this problem, complaining of the fallibility of outline engravings in his analysis of a portrait of William Shakespeare included in his book. “A copy of a copy,” the text reads. “Add, if you please, a spiritless vapid outline. How deficient must all outlines be! Among ten thousand can one be found that is exact?”48 The “outline” to which he refers is a simple, linear kind of engraving that is less expensive to produce but that is visually schematic and less detailed. In his zeal to demonstrate his awareness of the outline engraving’s formal disadvantages, Lavater has implied, perhaps inadvertently, that they are actually incapable of proffering an accurate representation. Instead, Lavater preferred the silhouette because of the precision it seemed uniquely able to offer: it results from a shadow cast by the head itself, as if the body produces its own representation.49 Despite this he recognized that the silhouette was far too limited in the amount of information it made available to the viewer. Traditional shaded and outlined portraits were necessary to present his readers with sufficient visible data on which to base their analyses.

One of the primary strategies used to combat the fallibility of the portrait was to multiply it.50 Consider this triplicate portrait of the mid-eighteenth-century British naval hero George Anson (Figure 2.4), taken from Hunter’s English translation of the original French edition. Like many of the illustrations found in the original volumes and especially the more lavishly illustrated French and English editions, this engraving provides multiple versions rather than a single portrait. It also presents different kinds of portraits, combining the graphic clarity of outline engravings below with a greater detail offered by the finely shaded engraving above. In these ways, the illustration mitigates the contingent flaws of any one portrayal of Anson, a technique that appears to be in keeping with what Galison and Daston have called “truth to nature” – that is, an early modern pictorial model of scientific objectivity that suppressed local, particular flaws in pursuit of a more representative general image. Unlike this model, however, Lavaterian physiognomy emphasized the unique features of individual men rather than the unifying characteristics commonly held among a given “type” of person. In other words, the local contingencies that needed to be suppressed here resided not in the specimen but in the illustration: the problem was not that an individual might not fully represent his taxonomic class but that a given portrait might not accurately represent its unique subject.

Figure 2.4 Thomas Holloway, Caricature of Lord Anson, from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 1 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), opposite 112.

Practical constraints meant that a great number of the portraits could not be shown in multiple; but other combinatory methods were available to supplement the informational shortcomings of the single portrait. In one illustration (Figure 2.5), for example, the abstracting precision of the silhouette and the variety of detail provided by the shaded portrait are integrated in a single engraving as if the former were a shadow cast by the latter from an unseen source of illumination. The silhouetted profile is visually contiguous with the shaded three-quarter profile, inviting the viewer to examine them together. In this, as in numerous other portraits for the book, rather than consolidating many possible “imperfect” images into a single representative image, an individual’s likeness was made multiple, both in the quantity and in the mode of its representation.

Figure 2.5 Anonymous portrait, from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), 270.

Fuseli produced works for Lavater’s text that adopted some of these strategies but which did so in ways that neither augmented nor enhanced the information they presented to the viewer. While in Italy, the artist executed oil sketches for at least two of the four heads included in the expanded French and English translations as Four Heads from Dante’s Hell (Figure 2.6; shown here from the English). Found on the recto (Figure 2.7) and verso (Figure 2.8) of a single canvas, the painted sketches of the Four Heads provide evidence of Fuseli’s contemporaneous studies in Italy. The dramatically foreshortened of the head on the recto bears a striking resemblance to the Prophet Jonah found on Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling, which was greatly admired by Fuseli. Possible models for additional heads can be found in Luca Signorelli’s fresco The Damned Cast into Hell (c.1499) in the San Brizio Chapel of Orvieto Cathedral. Unlike these Renaissance precedents, though, Fuseli’s painted heads cannot be located within a cohesive decorative framework nor within the narrative world of Judeo-Christian biblical texts. Taking their subject matter from the Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s famous late medieval vernacular epic, The Divine Comedy, they depict sinners, unidentified in Dante’s text, who experienced what Lavater calls, “the most horrible sufferings.”51

Figure 2.6 Thomas Holloway after Henry Fuseli, Four Heads from Dante’s Inferno from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), 290.

Figure 2.7 Henry Fuseli, Head of a Damned Soul from Dante’s “Inferno” (recto), 1770–1778, oil on canvas.

Art Institute of Chicago.

Figure 2.8 Henry Fuseli, Head of a Damned Soul from Dante’s “Inferno” (verso), 1770–1778, oil on canvas.

Art Institute of Chicago.

The painting on the recto hardly seems suited to a physiognomic analysis; the dramatic foreshortening of the face obscures its key features. The figure’s head is cast backward violently, exposing a large, expansive throat whose surface appears, especially in the resulting print, to ripple with activity. Where the flatter expanse of his neck rises upward on the right to meet the head, the paint abruptly stops short, leaving an unbounded and undefined upper jaw and ear. The sinner’s engorged lips are parted to reveal, in the center of the painting, the fleshy cavern of his mouth. Such features are even more exaggerated in the print, where the neck rendered as an unlikely collection of pulsing muscles and tendons, coupled with a distended nose and heavy, folded nostrils. In lieu of an ear, the hatching lines merely darken and curve – a sense evoked in its absence. When Blake later produced a folio-sized engraving of the head, such distortions were amplified and animated far beyond legibility.

The verso on which the third sinner in Fuseli’s illustration was based, more clearly delineates its subject’s facial features. His deformed brow “could not possibly,” Lavater declares, “belong to a distinguished man.” Yet here, too, much of the face is obscured in shadow and its lower jaw is compromised by an expanse of blue pigment that does not resolve into a definitive shape. His closed eyelids are lined with lighter paint – an allusion, perhaps, to sinners whose eyes were sewn shut as part of their punishment in Dante’s Purgatorio.52 The head on the recto although nominally sighted, likewise has a thick encrustation of white pigment over his eyes. The bright, pigmented opacity that lines the eyes of each sinner suggests that conventional, functional sightedness has been hindered or deranged.

Fuseli’s illustrations appear to adopt some of the strategies by which other images supplemented the information encoded in a single portrait. As a group, they resemble other plates on which multiple views of a head are shown, but they do not cohere as a set of legible portraits. The head of the third sinner, like the anonymous portrait (Figure 2.5) from which it is separated by only a few pages, casts a shadow, yet one emphatically devoid of any contours that might suggest a profile. In short, the means by which other prints endeavor to supply additional pictorial information are, in Four Heads, pointedly ineffective. To the extent that these paintings were initially designed for Lavater’s books, it is clear that they were never going to supply the kind of perceptible indices – profile, brow, nose, eyes, chin, ears, and so on – that the text was dedicated to analyzing. These are four heads that, instead, obscure and deform the very features on which a physiognomic analysis might be based and that empty out some of the strategies by which the book’s illustrations present and supplement visual evidence.

The portrait of the first sinner in Fuseli’s Four Heads casts a long shadow, metaphorically speaking, over Fuseli’s body of work. The features that characterize his face – the foreshortened head cast to one side, the overly large and muscular neck, the vaguely rendered or altogether absent ear, the parted lips, and the prominent, shaded nostrils – recur frequently in his paintings. They take on a softer, rounded guise in the inverted head of the dreamer in Fuseli’s The Nightmare (Figure 2.14), for example, but are muscular and austere in his Achilles Grasping at the Shade of Patroclus (Figure 2.9). The migration of these features across the artist’s drawings, prints, and paintings ironizes their prior placement within a physiognomic framework. Where they had once been taken to exemplify a specific and fixed set of character traits, they became promiscuous and multivalent, equally capable of representing an ancient hero, an envious sinner, or a contemporary lady.

Figure 2.9 Henry Fuseli, Achilles Grasping at the Shade of Patroclus, 1803, oil on canvas. Kunsthaus Zürich.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Deformations

Fuseli’s contributions to the original German, French, and English versions of Lavater’s text – including Four Heads – share with his subsequent work a recurring fascination with the male body and in particular with a body whose defining features are suppressed, exaggerated, or distorted. His contemporaries often remarked on the difficulty that inhered in critically evaluating such bodies. As one 1786 review of Fuseli’s art in the Public Advertiser reads, “Pictures are, or ought to be, a representation of natural objects, delineated with taste and precision.” The paper complained, “Mr. Fuseli gives us the human figure, from the recollection of its form and not from the form itself; he seems to be painting everything from fancy, which renders his work almost incomprehensible, and leaves no criterion to judge of them by, but the imagination.”53

Thus far I have limited my analysis to works that were directly connected with Lavaterian physiognomy, which offer the most concrete framework for understanding how Fuseli and Lavater could have been grappling with a shared set of conceptual and pictorial concerns. In what follows, I will suggest that we can see these concerns playing out in artworks that were relatively distant from the two men’s collaboration. Fuseli’s larger oeuvre is typically read alongside a broader artistic reckoning with various forms of political upheaval and economic modernization. To insist upon its proximity to Lavater and also to the empirical precepts upon which Lavater’s system was founded is not to dislodge it from this historical context but to reveal it as at the same time engaged with a widespread set of epistemological transitions underway at the turn of the nineteenth century. Many of Fuseli’s paintings amplify the analytical opacity of his early physiognomic illustrations insofar as they pointedly do not offer cohesive, self-identical, plausible, legible representations of the body. Moreover, the perceptible corporeal traits that can be discerned in Fuseli’s work do not necessarily correspond in a straightforward, reliable fashion to underlying truths.

Consider another of his depictions of Satan, this one from 1802. Dante’s was not the only vernacular literature to which Fuseli had been looking for scenes of the underworld while living in Rome; he was likewise gripped by John Milton’s evocative and sublime descriptions of Hell in Paradise Lost.54 Like his contemporaries James Barry, Thomas Lawrence, and Richard Westall (among others), Fuseli was drawn to Milton’s monumental vision of Satan, often portrayed in compositions that set Satan’s muscular immensity against the indeterminate chaos of Hell, which was described by Milton as a “dark illimitable ocean without bound, without dimension.”55 This passage likewise inspired de Loutherbourg in the 1780s, whose popular but short-lived Eidophusikon included a Miltonic scene of “Satan Arraying his Troops on the Banks of the Fiery Lake.”56 Fuseli’s interest in Milton went much farther, though. His Satanic Call to Beelzebub in Hell (Figure 2.10) was based on at least one of his earlier renditions of the scene. By that time, Fuseli had produced dozens of Miltonic paintings, especially in the 1790s when he was preparing a venture modeled on the Shakespeare Gallery and similar undertakings (to which Fuseli, like de Loutherbourg, contributed). However, whereas those ventures had been collective efforts, the Milton Gallery – which was a commercial failure by most measures – only included works by Fuseli himself.

Figure 2.10 Henry Fuseli, Satanic Call to Beelzebub in Hell, 1802, oil on canvas. Kunsthaus Zürich.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Like a number of roughly contemporary works, including Barry’s Satan and His Legions Hurling Defiance Toward the Vault of Heaven (c.1792–1795, British Museum) and Lawrence’s Satan Summoning His Legions (Figure 2.11), Fuseli’s painting depicts Satan as a monumental figure, seen from below, with exaggerated physical features and dramatically extended limbs. When Lawrence’s rendition of Satan had been initially exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1797, several had seen the painting as a direct challenge to Fuseli, given that it traded in the monumentality, exaggeration, and tension for which he was then widely known.57 Unlike in Lawrence’s painting, however, Fuseli’s Satan is set to the far right of the composition, with his raised arms and foremost leg framing Beelzebub and the indeterminate expanse that surrounds them both. His face, shown in profile, is lacking the visible features of Satan delineated by Fuseli in his earlier physiognomic illustration. Here Satan’s head inclines away from the viewer, revealing only a rounded chin, strong nose, and a shaded fold above the eyes. The rest of the body’s musculature is only vaguely sketched. The upper torso so decisively and emphatically rendered by Barry and Lawrence is faint and ill-defined in Fuseli’s painting. The entire lower portion of Satan’s back leg as well as his hands are darkened and blurred, blending into the background of the painting. His foreshortened back foot seems to have disappeared altogether. This is particularly pronounced in the figure of Beelzebub in the midground, whose arm reaches upward in response to Satan’s call. Beelzebub’s sketchily rendered lower body blends into the darkened depths out of which he rises, its contours dissolving into a pigmented chaos of deep brown and orange. (This can also be seen in the engraving published by F. I. du Roveray in the same year. In the print, which is dominated by nebulous gray vapors, Beelzebub’s bent leg can be seen fading into Hell’s “dark illimitable ocean.”) Fuseli transposed the immeasurable and indeterminate expanse described by Milton onto the level of form. Rather than the swirling, flame-like wisps through which his contemporaries depicted Hell, Fuseli evoked a molten sea of incandescent hues that blend in and out of deep recesses of shadow. Against this backdrop Beelzebub’s upper body takes on a more concrete, bounded shape. Satan’s call-to-arms doubles as a call-to-form, a coming into being through contour, depth, and shadow; and Beelzebub answers the call through his individuation from his surroundings via the elements of pictorial order.

Figure 2.11 Thomas Lawrence, Satan Summoning His Legions, 1796–1797, oil on canvas. Royal Academy of Arts, London.

© Photo: Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: Marcus Leith.

This contrast between formed, unformed, and deformed was starkly rendered in a Homeric work produced around the same time (although lacking a fixed date), Achilles Sacrifices His Hair on the Funeral Pyre of Patroclus (Figure 2.12). Having been killed by Hector in the Trojan War, Patroclus is seen laid atop a wooden pyre. The foreground is lined with soldiers, whose rounded, muscular shoulders, swollen necks, and pointed helmets – emblems of irrepressible male virility – are set off in darker shades of wash outlined sparingly with lighter hues. The drawing is dominated by the contrasting upright body of Achilles and the supine body of Patroclus: one dark and the other light, one alive and the other dead, one vigorously rendered in ink and watercolor and the other ill-defined, as if fading from view. Achilles, legs extended in stride, pictures an emphatic masculinity marked by taut musculature and robust verticality. The contours of his back, buttocks, and legs are outlined in confident brown strokes of ink, with local anatomical details rendered in prominent and rounded passages of wash.

Figure 2.12 Henry Fuseli, Achilles Sacrifices His Hair on the Funeral Pyre of Patroclus, 1800, oil and watercolor on paper. Kunsthaus Zürich.

© Kunsthaus Zürich, Collection of Prints and Drawings, 1916.

Patroclus, on the other hand, clearly lacks such attributes. His face, turned toward the viewer, is given as a single shaded contour covered with faint ink scratches that in no way evoke the features of a face. Instead it looks like the wood on which it rests, almost as if Patroclus is drained of his corporeality, which flows down the page to the wooden funeral pyre below him. The pyre’s defined contours of swelling oblongs, arranged parallel along a light, curving axis as though held together by connective tissue, more closely resemble human musculature than any element of Patroclus himself. It is crisscrossed with ribbon-like blue veins, acquiring the attributes and formal specificity once belonging to the fallen hero, who, in death, becomes deformed. On the right, his legs and feet grow smaller and fainter. The vertical stroke of ink that outlines his ankle is extended to the pyre below, again indicative of their newfound contiguity. As in Satanic Call to Beelzebub, in Achilles Sacrifices His Hair the work’s narrative content is played out in the formal opposition of its figures. This is underscored by the act of sacrifice undertaken by Achilles to grieve his friend and mark the boundary of life and death: the severing of hair from his animate body. We encounter a contrast – a confrontation, even – between bodies accorded legible features and bodies that are not; and this contrast, wittingly or not, allegorizes conflicting ideas about the evidentiary status of body that were very much at stake in physiognomy.

Early and mature works alike obscured and withheld the kinds of pictorial information prized by Lavater. Within the context of late eighteenth-century European art, the suppression of pictorial detail had very specific aesthetic resonances. Edmund Burke’s recent A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful was one of the most frequently discussed works in the London literary circles to which Fuseli was introduced in the 1760s.58 Long before his arrival in London, Fuseli was profoundly influenced by Johann Jakob Bodmer and Johann Jakob Breitinger while in Zurich, who advocated for literature that activated the generative powers of the imagination – a faculty regarded with suspicion in many schools of thought.59 This could be achieved, according to Burke, by withholding certain kinds of representational specificity, thus encouraging the reader or viewer to imagine vast depths and powerful forces whose immensity would always exceed that which was clearly delineated.60 Fuseli affirmed the opposition of detail and sublimity in his third Lecture on Painting delivered at the Royal Academy in 1801: “all minute detail tends to destroy terror, as all minute ornament, grandeur. The catalogue of the cauldron’s ingredients in Macbeth, destroys the terror attendant on the mysterious darkness of preternatural agency.”61 This was typically deployed to evoke atmospheric effects: obscure settings, opaque clouds, and unseen depths – effects we often encounter in Fuseli’s art.62 While there is no doubt that such aesthetic concerns played a significant role in his suppression of pictorial detail, it should now be clear that this was hardly the only – or, for Fuseli, the most immediate – context in which the status and nature of corporeal legibility were being questioned.

It is not just any kind of detail that is suppressed in Fuseli’s works. It is the anatomic specificity of the monumental human body, which is narratively central and pictorially foregrounded. Nor is the suppression of its key features the only aspect that made Fuseli’s treatment of the body unassimilable within Lavater’s system. Corporeal detail itself is often a foil to clarity in Fuseli’s art. To take another Homeric work on paper, consider Fuseli’s much earlier pen-and-ink sketch, Thetis Mourning the Body of Achilles (Figure 2.13). On the left is Achilles, his body supine and splayed in defeat, and on the right is his mother, Thetis, encircled by bright diaphanous drapery that billows expansively around her pale form. Achilles’s facial features are characteristically obscured by dramatic foreshortening. He appears, moreover, to lack both eyes and ears. Yet his torso swells with densely clustered parcels of shaded musculature. They emerge and recede as if retaining some of Achilles’s essential vitality. To the extent that it can be taken as indicative of his underlying traits, such frenzied musculature would seem to point to his formidable strength. However, this surfeit of musculature poses two problems for a physiognomic framework.

Figure 2.13 Henry Fuseli, Thetis Mourning the Body of Achilles, 1780, wash and graphite on paper.

The Art Institute of Chicago.

First, Achilles, like many of Fuseli’s heroes (including Thor), is simply too muscular. By this, I mean that his body is so tightly packed with bulging tendons, bones, cartilage, and muscles that they fail to retain any plausible differentiated functions. As a result, they are no longer able to cohere as a local units of a single unified body. The calf muscle on the left bulges awkwardly and is rendered with thin, ovoid contours, whereas the calf muscle on the right, though slimmer, is jarringly angular and is set off in long linear strokes of thick wash. The engorged pectoral muscle to the right of Achilles’s head is awkwardly extended too far from the body. The same could be said of the arm on the left – but not of the arm on the right, which seems to have vanished entirely. (The notable exception here is the feet, which are unencumbered by bones, tendons, and muscles altogether. As is often the case in Fuseli’s work, they instead bear an uncanny resemblance to crakows, which are long pointed shoes that became popular in the fifteenth century.) Rather than a plausible body, the extravagance of the musculature evokes a body in too great an excess of itself .63 This problematic surfeit of corporeal detail can also be found in illustrations produced by Fuseli for Lavater’s text, such as The Death of Abel, included in the French and English translations of Lavater. Again, the face is obscured but the musculature is outlined with great precision; and again, as pockets of flesh accumulate the figure itself ceases to cohere. Its visual determinacy is dissolved into an aggregate of adjacent, but ultimately discrete, bounded forms.

The second problem posed by this kind of body has to do with the misalignment of external appearance and underlying reality. With Achilles we encounter the dead body of a once-vital man in which the visual surface of the body is highly variable and dynamic. The viewer’s eye practically vibrates as it glides over its tessellated forms. As such, it differs markedly from Fuseli’s later depiction of Achilles (Figure 2.12), insofar as his muscular specificity has been deactivated upon his death. Earlier works establish a different opposition than that which motivates the later work; the contrast is between the animate surface of the body and its inanimate underlying state, between the vitality, strength, and vigor of its appearance and the inert, defeated passivity of its reality. How the body appears, in short, does not reflect how it actually is. In rendering such pointedly incomprehensible bodies, Fuseli sounded a note of deep skepticism about the scientific viability of a physiognomic enterprise. His younger colleague Blake would go further, portraying monumental nude bodies whose perverse musculature suggested deeper ambiguities: between alive and dead, animal and human, interior and exterior. Blake was, famously, more overtly hostile to the notion that the human body – as both a physical materiality and a sensory apparatus – provided one with privileged access to rational truth, in the broader empirical sense.64

Between Visible and Invisible

The commensurability of the human body and its pictorial representation was critical to Lavater’s undertaking in a very real and practical manner: the primary evidence on which it based its analyses took the form of printed illustrations. Moreover, as I have argued, this was central to the epistemological framework upon which it based its claims to scientific legitimacy: Lavater’s was a system predicated on self-representation – on the ability of the visual surface of the body to represent its underlying truths. This was informed by an even more fundamental assumption, namely that the human body exemplifies a pervasive alignment between appearance and reality. As such, Lavater’s model of physiognomy drew upon a basic empirical conception of the natural world as something that truthfully represents itself to the human observer in perceptible terms. This was precisely what Georg Hegel brought into focus when defining physiognomy in his 1807 Phenomenology of Spirit. In writing of Lavater’s “science of knowing men,” he observed that “it is the visible as a sensuous presentment of the invisible, which constitutes the object of observation.”65 For Hegel it is not merely the study of the perceptible world; physiognomy takes as its creed that the perceptible world of nature represents the imperceptible world of truth. This took on particular semiotic terms in the context of eighteenth-century German aesthetics, in which, for the philosopher Christian Wolff, “nature is a sign system which – free of all the deficiencies and limitations of the culturally instituted sign systems – expresses only itself.”66 Both observational practices and the semiotics of nature took as given that the entire perceptible world accurately conveys its imperceptible truths.

Lavater was quite explicit about this. His model of physiognomy, by extension, proffered a means of analyzing not just the body but the entire natural world, a claim elaborately staged in his introductory remarks in the original Hunter translation:

Do we not daily judge of the sky by its physiognomy? No food, not a glass of wine, or beer, not a cup of coffee, or tea, comes to table, which is not judged by its physiognomy, its exteriour; and of which we do not thence deduce some conclusion respecting its interiour, good, or bad, properties. Is not all nature physiognomy; superficies and contents; body, and spirit; exteriour effect, and internal power; invisible beginning, and visible ending? What knowledge is there, of which man is capable, that is not founded on the exteriour; the relation that exists between visible and invisible, the perceptible and imperceptible?67

Lavater’s understanding of the natural world is one in which appearance and truth, visible exterior and invisible interior, coincide; and it is on this basis that man navigates the world. It is so foundational to our experience of being in the world that he asks, “What knowledge is there, of which man is capable, that is not founded on … the relation that exists between visible and invisible, the perceptible and imperceptible?” The task of the physiognomist, in this light, is the same as that of any other scientists: to study the natural world through direct observation and critical reflection, and thence to draw conclusions about its inner workings. Lavater was not merely publishing a system of “reading faces” – he was putting forward a system of studying the entire world.

Lavaterian physiognomy turns on the evidentiary capacity of the human body, its ability to present data about itself. As such, it draws upon the general scientific precepts associated with seventeenth- and eighteenth-century empiricism, namely that direct observation of the natural world is a privileged vehicle for producing valid scientific knowledge, that man has comprehensive sensory access to the natural world and the requisite rational intellect to evaluate sensory data, and finally, that the perceptible features of the natural world accurately reflect the underlying structures or laws that govern it. However idiosyncratic or heterodox Lavater’s project was, however short-lived its credibility, it was an expression of a model of empiricism that had to do with much more than just “reading” the body to determine a man’s inner traits. At its core, his model of physiognomy was about the terms according to which man can produce knowledge about the natural world more broadly.

Lavater took the human body to be the ultimate test case of this paradigm. As I have argued, his method assumes that the body visually represents its inner self and that this body can, in turn, be represented pictorially. In spite of this, Fuseli’s bodies insistently do not represent the self, at least not in the sense of conveying reliable information about its underlying truths. Nor can we claim Fuseli’s ignorance on this score; he was actively involved, for over two decades, with Lavater’s project. Fuseli’s disputes with Lavater, his inappropriate illustrations for the book, and his treatment of the body more generally are emphatically at odds with the relationship posited by Lavater between the knowledge, the body, and its visual representation. As such, his work proves itself quite resistant to related precepts at work in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century models of scientific empiricism that propose an evidentiary world populated with reliable, perceptible data points that can be observed, analyzed, and thus known by a rational observer.

Sight Unseen

With this broader epistemological configuration in mind, we might begin to reconsider what kind of evidentiary cohesion Fuseli’s paintings, prints, and drawings lay claim to pictorially, and how this shapes the world inhabited by its protagonists and also the viewer who attempts to make sense of it. Perhaps the most straightforward example of this is The Nightmare (Figure 2.14), an unrelentingly enigmatic painting that, for all its strangeness, remains the most familiar of his works. First displayed at the Royal Academy in the spring of 1782, the painting inspired scandal and success in near-equal measure. It was quickly reproduced as an engraving and copies as well as parodies of it circulated widely throughout Britain and Continental Europe. Fuseli himself went on to paint other versions of it. The writer and politician Horace Walpole famously wrote just one word next to its entry in his annotated copy of the Academy’s exhibition catalogue: “shocking.” Yet for all the attention the painting has received, there has been little critical consensus among scholars as to what its constitutive elements or the larger arrangement actually mean. Indeed, the painting’s very ambiguity has been taken by Andrei Pop as key to its operation.68

Figure 2.14 Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781, oil on canvas.

Detroit Institute of Arts. USA Founders Society Purchase with funds from Mr. and Mrs. Bert L. Smokler and Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman/Bridgeman Images.

The confusion largely hinges on the uncertain relationship between its three figures: a reclining woman in contemporary dress, a simian-like creature perched on her chest, and a horse whose head emerges from behind red curtain. The painting’s sexual subtext is palpable. The woman’s clothing is in a state of disarray, revealing much of her bust and clinging suggestively to her exaggerated waist and hip. She is mounted by the brown-hued demon, often referred to as an incubus; and the bulbous snout of the horse (rendered even more phallic in later versions of the painting) enters the scene through labial folds of red drapery. Although certainly not the first painting to depict a dream (nor the first by Fuseli), The Nightmare lacks a clear narrative source or precedent. Viewers are left to follow the cue offered by its title and consider the nonhuman figures as belonging, in some form or other, to the dream-experience of the sleeping woman. As a result, readings of the painting have situated it within the history of dreams, in relation to the aesthetic of the “mock sublime,” and, more recently, as figuring a bridge between private psychic experience and publicly shared knowledge.69

The Nightmare portrays seemingly incompatible kinds of figures within a unified visual field. There are pictorial elements we take to be “actually there” – the supine woman, the bed, the rounded table and the mirror and small vessels atop it, and so on; but there are also elements that are less obviously so, whether we take them to be allegorical figures, projections of the sleeper’s physical and/or psychic state, supernatural creatures, or something else altogether. Yet their presence in the painting is equally “plausible” in representational terms. Note, for example, that the simian-like creature casts a shadow on the red drapery, indicating that he is illuminated by the same light that falls on the sleeping woman. In other words, Fuseli does not offer clear pictorial distinctions between the natural and the supernatural, the real and the imaginary, or the physical and the psychic. Nor does he situate them within a narrative source whose meaning would be obvious to the painting’s viewers or whose diegetic framework would account for the copresence of both “real” and “unreal” creatures (the likes of which can be found in Greco-Roman or Judeo-Christian mythology). Rather than offer another interpretation of this painting, I would merely point out that, whatever else it may represent, The Nightmare figures a world that is not visually self-evident, despite being clearly delineated in pictorial terms. The relationship between its human protagonist and animal-like figures, the uncertain ontological status of the latter, and the lack of an established narrative framework within which such ambiguities could be resolved leave the viewer unable to parse appearance from reality. The painting also introduces a theme that Fuseli explored in much of his subsequent work: a human protagonist who is disempowered by such ambiguities. In The Nightmare, we see the concurrence of a world that is not self-evident and a human subject who is dispossessed by that world.

It is this very phenomenon that was dramatized in his later Mad Kate (Figure 2.15), a painting inspired by William Cowper’s 1785 poem The Task. (Cowper, it should be noted, was an admirer of Lavater.)70 Fuseli and Cowper were originally due to collaborate on a translation project in 1790, which was abandoned as a result of Cowper’s mental instability. Instead Mad Kate was painted several years after Cowper died in 1800 and was engraved by William Bromley in 1807 for a posthumous collection of Cowper’s poetry that was published by Fuseli’s associate Joseph Johnson. One of the many characters encountered in Cowper’s unconventional long-form poem is Kate, a woman whose lover has died at sea. Yet she continues to wander the coast: “And now she roams / The dreary waste; there spends the livelong day.” Although in a desperate state, she begs of passers-by “an idle pin” but neither food nor clothing. Cowper declares, “Kate is crazed.”

Figure 2.15 Henry Fuseli, Mad Kate, 1806–1807, oil on canvas. Goethemuseum, Frankfurt.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Fuseli paints the young woman on a rocky outcropping, around which sea and sky seem to rage and churn. Her madness is apparent in her wide, almost bulging eyes, which peer out of the canvas but do not appear to settle on anything in particular. The intensity of her gaze, unfocused and without a clear object, is likewise foregrounded in Bromley’s subsequent engraving. In this regard, Mad Kate anticipates the nonreciprocal gaze that characterized Théodore Géricault’s portraits of the insane from 1822 – a series of works evoking insanity as a form of self-experience that, Jonathan Crary has observed, is cut off from and incompatible with a collectively experienced external reality.71 With two delicate pins on her foremost shoulder, Kate is encircled by a large swoop of cloth that billows around her. Her hair flows about wildly as if animated by the frenzied activity taking place in her mind. Indeed, her hair, her clothing, and the storm that surrounds her are in a collective state of derangement reflective of her mental condition, particularly in the original French sense of dé-ranger, meaning to dis-arrange or dis-order. The symmetrical turmoil of the painting’s formal and narrative content has the potential to destabilize one’s understanding of it. Is the storm itself an imaginary expression of the protagonist’s inner turmoil? To be more precise: Is this painting, like The Nightmare, presenting both its protagonist and a figural rendition of her private psychic experience? Or is the storm merely a representational strategy whereby Fuseli dramatizes her misery? For Mad Kate, such questions will never be resolved, a fact exacerbated by the lack of any specificity in her surroundings. The viewer cannot place her in relation to her environment; nor, it seems, can Kate. Insofar as the primary condition of her insanity is an inability to distinguish between that which she imagines and that which is actually there, it is a condition replicated for the viewer. To look at the painting is to occupy, for a time, a position in which such distinctions are perpetually beyond one’s reach.

It is not just the body, as represented by Fuseli, that fails to conform to the expectations of Lavaterian physiognomy; in key artworks, what is disregarded or perhaps challenged is the underlying premise on which it based its claims to produce scientific knowledge – that is, that the world can be relied upon to represent itself in factual, perceptible terms. Specifically, what is at stake here is a relation between appearance and reality, the assumption that they are distinct categories but are nonetheless in perfect accord. Recall Lavater: “What knowledge is there, of which man is capable, that is not founded on the exteriour; the relation that exists between visible and invisible, the perceptible and imperceptible?” It is not that Fuseli persistently depicts a world void of perceptible clues, or whose appearance has no relation to its narrative content. Nor are his works empty, inexpressive, or completely illegible. Rather than a world whose visual representation is commensurate with its underlying truths, they articulate the breaking apart of this relationship. As a result, Fuseli’s work proves to be a challenge to the doctrine of Lavaterian physiognomy that he knew so well and ultimately remains unassimilable with the broader epistemological structures on which it drew.

To the extent that Fuseli’s artworks imagined the consequences of the alternative world evoked therein, they largely concern what it might mean to be an observer of that world. His protagonists are often defined both by their position as a viewer within a scene and by their incapacitation or dispossession as a result of said position. Already in his early designs for Lavater, Fuseli’s protagonists confront a world in which appearance and reality are decidedly misaligned and to which they respond with intense states of physical and psychic alterity. While living in Rome in 1777, Fuseli executed a drawing of Saul and the Witch of Endor in pen and sepia. The resulting print first appeared in the original French translation of Lavater’s text and was republished ten years later in Hunter’s English translation (Figure 2.16). Based on a passage from the Hebrew Bible, the illustration portrays King Saul’s attempts to communicate with the dead prophet Samuel. Having been spurned by God for disobedience, Saul consults a spiritual medium, the witch of Endor, to contact Samuel. Once summoned, the apparition predicts that Saul will lose his kingdom and die the following day.

Figure 2.16 Thomas Holloway after Henry Fuseli, The Witch of Endor, from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), 289.

The witch of Endor occupies the central foreground in the early sketch, underscoring her narrative function as a spiritual intermediary. Under her robes, her musculature is outlined in long, parallel strokes of ink. In the final engravings, the medium is set farther back and her body is cloaked in heavy folds of drapery. She extends her arms out toward each of the men, connecting them in an emphatic lateral line that is accented and crisscrossed by the symmetrical swells of her robe. On the left, stands the spirit of Samuel, substantial and upright. To the right, King Saul’s nude body sprawls along a diagonal axis, propped up by an attendant. The formal contrast between the erect Samuel and the oblique Saul point to a set of other oppositions: dead and living, spiritual and terrestrial, prophet and king. Saul has fainted upon learning of his imminent defeat. Plunged into the passivity of unconsciousness, his formidable musculature is exposed and intractable. His head is thrown back, exposing his neck and chin while concealing much of his face, which is reduced to a single, inarticulate ridge. Behind this, a large curling expanse of hair cascades around him, rolling and swelling in a dramatic sweep that extends past his buttocks; the tail hanging beneath it indicates the presence of animal skin, but it is unclear precisely where one material ends and another begins. A reader of Lavater’s text would struggle to parse what is fur, hair, fabric, and flesh. The exaggerated musculature of Saul’s buttocks, closely resembling that of his ample torso, is yet another example of a heroic body lacking a sense of localized, distinct bodily features.

Given its compositional prominence and its placement within a text dedicated to using the visible surface of the body to reveal its inner truths, Fuseli’s depiction of Saul presents some troubling obscurities and ambiguities that should now be familiar to us. The formal slippage between different parts of his body as well as between the body and various materials that surround it is problematic for a system that privileges the unique, individual body and assumes its corporeal self-representation. Saul’s ostensible physical strength, signaled by his elaborately shaded musculature, is set at odds with his state of incapacitation and vulnerability. Moreover, Fuseli presents a scene about the drama of apparition, both in the sense of a spirit and in the sense of something that appears or comes into view: the prophet Samuel is not actually present; he merely appears to be. Samuel’s columnar drapery and wide form imply physical solidity precisely where there is none. Instead, it is Saul’s body that is porous, that is formally continuous with other physical objects. Within the pictorial and diegetic world of the illustration, apparent solidity is paired with actual immateriality and apparent strength paired with actual weakness. Power here is apportioned to the invisible and the spiritual; and Saul, rather than being enlightened by what he sees, is physically and psychically incapacitated by it.

More than just thematizing shock or sensationalism, Fuseli’s painted, printed, and drawn protagonists suggest the great difficulty that inheres in being a spectator of a world whose evidentiary authority cannot be relied upon. From Shakespeare’s Hamlet, wild-eyed and pale as he recoils from the armored figure of his father’s ghost (Gertrude, Hamlet and the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father, c.1785, Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Mamiano di Traversetolo) to Hagen of the Nibelungenlied, another extravagantly muscular hero who collapses when shown the Ring of the Nibelungs (Kriemhild Shows the Imprisoned Hagen the Ring of the Nibelungs, 1807, Gottfried Keller-Stiftung) – Fuseli’s protagonists are incapacitated by what they see. Several of them are literally or effectively blinded, and others are confused, terrified, insensible, or unconscious. Nor is this limited to the remote world of heroic epic. One of his most suggestive sketches of contemporary spectatorship, Woman Before the Laocoön (c.1802, Kunsthaus Zürich), shows a woman in modern dress pulling back, startled by the graphically muscular protagonist of the Laocoön, who is glimpsed only as a fragment. Fuseli’s intimate knowledge of the statue and of the eponymous text by Gottfried Lessing are well known.72 In addition to the oft-remarked on sexual subtext of this encounter between a contemporary female viewer and a suggestively exposed classical male nude, the sketch aligns contemporary and historical or narrative acts of spectatorship, designating each as a confrontation between a viewer and their visual environment in which the act of knowledge production is derailed and in which rational self-possession is replaced by a state of surprise, confusion, and relative disempowerment.

The Ends of Self-Representation

Fuseli’s art probed and challenged Lavaterian physiognomy. This was not because his work was somehow “scientific” but because his work was significantly invested in ongoing disputes concerning the correspondence between nature’s perceptible appearance and its imperceptible reality, disputes that took the human body as their greatest example. Fuseli’s model of representation was not one that could shore up the significatory powers of the visual world nor its viewers’ ability to make reliable judgments on that basis. Yet Lavater’s model of representation endeavored to do just that – to account for a system of knowledge grounded in human observation alone. Insofar as Fuseli’s art expressed a deep skepticism of physiognomy’s viability in such a system, it should be considered prescient. By the end of the eighteenth century, Lavater’s fame had greatly waned and his method was consigned to the margins as a quixotic endeavor from a bygone era. The version of physiognomy most commonly discussed by historians is its enormously popular nineteenth-century revival, which largely abandoned the epistemological convictions that had been so dearly held by the man responsible for its initial widespread success.

Early nineteenth-century efforts to establish its scientific legitimacy took as a given that Lavater’s explanation was gravely insufficient. In his An Attempt to Establish Physiognomy upon Scientific Principles of 1817, for example, John Cross mocked earlier texts that had based their claim “as a distinct independent science” on the belief that “Nature had given all the endless variety of size, shape and colour … [to] the animate world for the sole purpose of letting them all into the knowledge of each other’s character.”73 Man’s appearance, he countered, was not “constructed peculiarly for a physiognomical purpose” but reveals itself only through the cumulative visual effects of anatomically precise and habitual muscular activity (e.g., facial expressions). More to the point, though, the historian Sharrona Pearl has pointed out that such efforts “represent a minority of physiognomic writing and an even smaller minority of physiognomic practice” in the nineteenth century.74 This later variant was largely unconcerned with accounting for its precise mechanisms and tended to emphasize man’s intuitive powers of visual judgment. In practical terms, illustrations played a much smaller role in the cheap, small-scale physiognomic texts that proliferated.

Scientific rigor, when it was demanded of nineteenth-century physiognomy, focused instead on using instruments to measure and record the properties of the face, displacing the authority of direct observation onto technical apparatuses that were thought to be immune to the fallibility that had been subsequently attributed to the human senses. Scientific racism was likewise intimately bound up in nineteenth-century ideas about biological determinism and skull measurement.75 Photography in particular became a privileged tool, first used to document individuals in the case of Hugh Welch Diamond and later used by Francis Galton and others to produce composite image of groups or “types.”76 The methodological tenets of nineteenth-century physiognomy and phrenology (which focused on the shape of the head) were inseparable from the emergence of the social sciences as a discipline as well as newly institutionalized methods of quantitative statistical analysis. Physiognomy’s popular analogue, a relatively unsystematic doctrine of using casual observation to evaluate others, has been understood, in contrast, as a response to the rapid expansion of large, industrialized cities.77

Fuseli’s personal and professional conflicts with Lavater, like his art, clarify some of the fault lines along which Lavaterian physiognomy was operating. They anticipated its rapidly approaching obsolescence by undermining the very features that subsequent practitioners discarded as unscientific. Yet, in turn, Lavaterian physiognomy compels us to recognize that there were gripping epistemological stakes in Fuseli’s work – his representation of the body in particular but also key features that populate his larger oeuvre – and, as a result, to acknowledge their hostility to a model of self-representation that was coming under increasing pressure at the turn of the nineteenth century. Like de Loutherbourg, Fuseli produced works of art that sat uncomfortably with Enlightenment precepts about scientific knowledge production that presupposed a legible world readily available to man’s perceptual powers. However, as we have seen, for Fuseli this took a very particular form: it concerned printed pages, bodily surfaces, and the alignment of the perceptible world with its underlying truths. One of the many artists who studied the pages of Lavater’s books would come to raise further questions about the evidentiary authority of the body in the years that followed, although these were organized around a different set of scientific claims about the body. It is to his work, and to France, that we now turn.

Figure 0

Figure 2.1 Henry Fuseli, Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent, 1790, oil on canvas. Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 1

Figure 2.2 Thomas Holloway after Henry Fuseli, Satan, from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), 285.

Figure 2

Figure 2.3 Thomas Holloway after Henry Fuseli, Martha Hess, from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), 314.

Figure 3

Figure 2.4 Thomas Holloway, Caricature of Lord Anson, from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 1 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), opposite 112.

Figure 4

Figure 2.5 Anonymous portrait, from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), 270.

Figure 5

Figure 2.6 Thomas Holloway after Henry Fuseli, Four Heads from Dante’s Inferno from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), 290.

Figure 6

Figure 2.7 Henry Fuseli, Head of a Damned Soul from Dante’s “Inferno” (recto), 1770–1778, oil on canvas.

Art Institute of Chicago.
Figure 7

Figure 2.8 Henry Fuseli, Head of a Damned Soul from Dante’s “Inferno” (verso), 1770–1778, oil on canvas.

Art Institute of Chicago.
Figure 8

Figure 2.9 Henry Fuseli, Achilles Grasping at the Shade of Patroclus, 1803, oil on canvas. Kunsthaus Zürich.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 9

Figure 2.10 Henry Fuseli, Satanic Call to Beelzebub in Hell, 1802, oil on canvas. Kunsthaus Zürich.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 10

Figure 2.11 Thomas Lawrence, Satan Summoning His Legions, 1796–1797, oil on canvas. Royal Academy of Arts, London.

© Photo: Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photographer: Marcus Leith.
Figure 11

Figure 2.12 Henry Fuseli, Achilles Sacrifices His Hair on the Funeral Pyre of Patroclus, 1800, oil and watercolor on paper. Kunsthaus Zürich.

© Kunsthaus Zürich, Collection of Prints and Drawings, 1916.
Figure 12

Figure 2.13 Henry Fuseli, Thetis Mourning the Body of Achilles, 1780, wash and graphite on paper.

The Art Institute of Chicago.
Figure 13

Figure 2.14 Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781, oil on canvas.

Detroit Institute of Arts. USA Founders Society Purchase with funds from Mr. and Mrs. Bert L. Smokler and Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman/Bridgeman Images.
Figure 14

Figure 2.15 Henry Fuseli, Mad Kate, 1806–1807, oil on canvas. Goethemuseum, Frankfurt.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 15

Figure 2.16 Thomas Holloway after Henry Fuseli, The Witch of Endor, from Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1789–1798), 289.

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