PHYSIOGNOMY

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PHYSIOGNOMY (from ^j, nature, and vofxos, law, rule) is the name given to the countenance of man, considered as an index of his general character, and also to the science which treats of the means of judging of character from the countenance. This is the general acceptation of the term; but there seems no very good reason why the science of physiognomy should not be considered as extend ing to a man's whole appearance. Whatever be thought of the possibility of laying down strict rules for such judgments, it is a fact of every day's occurrence, that we are, almost without reflection on our part, impressed favorably or unfavorably, in regard to the temper and talents of others, by the expression of their countenances. The poetry of early ages contains descriptions of the features of heroes, corresponding to the character of the individual; and, in ordinary life,e very person who takes a servant is influenced by the expression of his countenance. The existence, therefore, of a permanent external expression of the inward man, in some degree,cannotbe denied; but that there exist exceptions, is a matter of course. The great question is, how far we can reduce our experience to certain rules. As the face is that part of animals in which the noblest organs are united, by which they put themselves in contact with the world, and, for various reasons, shows most of their characteristic traits, it has been made the particular object of study by the physiognomist; and comparisons have been drawn between the face of man and that of animals. Bapt. della Porta (who died in 1615) made such comparisons the basis of his physiognomical investigations, and had the heads of animals compared to human faces represented. Tischbein, a German painter, has since carried out the same idea much more completely, and doctor Gall has also made such comparative representations for the illustration of phrenology. (See Gall) A great part of the art of painting and sculpture is founded on physiognomy. As the expression of the face depends very much upon the formation of the fore part of the skull, physiognomy is illustrated bycraniology.* Amongthe chief points in physiognomy, Kant, in his anthropology, reckons, 1. the general formation of the face, particularly in the profile, which is interesting, both in respect to the physiognomy of individuals and of nations, as Blumenbach's investigations prove ; 2. the features of the face ; 3. the motions of the face, as far as they have become habitual ; also the walk, &c. Kant and others think they can show why physiognomy can never be elevated to a science. It is, however, a subject of great interest, but the student must be on his guard against a general application of the rules which experience seems to have furnished him. This was the reason why Lavater's system lasted but a short time, though he has collected valuable materials. (See Lavater.) The Dominican Campanella, who died in 1639, was a physiognomist. J. Cross published, in 1817, an Attempt to establish Physiognomy upon scientific Principles (Glasgow, 1817); and Spurzheim, the Physiognomical System.