Elective Physiognomies

"Don't judge a book by it's cover is all very well,
but imagine the benefits to your business or
romantic life if you could judge a person's
character just by looks" 

Their Faces Give Them Away, Adelaide Advertiser 1994.

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Physiognomy is the reading of a person's character from the physical features of their face. Historically physiognomical studies consisted of drawings of faces accompanied by a written analysis.


readings adapted from "Essays on Physiognomy" JC Lavater 1772,   portraits adapted from an image of the artist


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Physiognomy demonstrates a desire for exactness in the knowledge of inexact things. Contemporary fields of scientific research such as the Human Genome Project seem just as prone to tendencies of over-simplification and projection as those of the enlightenment.


"Physiognomy takes cognisance of races and nations as well as of individuals. It holds that as, physically, there is a difference between the tawny Mongolian of the far East who rears his miserable wigwam of twigs and turf and the civilised Caucasian, from whose hand springs palaces of crystal which he crowds with the triumphs of science and art."

The Mind in the Face, W McDowall 1792


"The genome project promises to find the pieces of our genetic code responsible for diseases, but it may also find genetic markers that determine personality, temperament and sexual orientation. As we re-engineer the genome we are also re-engineering ourselves as programmed beings"

Science, Sherry Turkle 1995