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Robert H. Collyer and Monsieur De Bonneville

Robert H. Collyer and Monsieur De Bonneville
Auguste Edouart, 1788 - 1861
Robert H. Collyer
Monsieur De Bonneville, 19th Century
Ink wash, chalk and cut paper on paper
Image/Sheet: 28 × 21.3 cm (11 × 8 3/8")
Mat: 55.9 × 40.6 cm (22 × 16")
Frame: 47.9 × 37.8 × 3.2 cm (18 7/8 × 14 7/8 × 1 1/4")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Robert L. McNeil, Jr.
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In the mid-1800s, people engaged in both scientific and pseudoscientific efforts to try to understand how the brain worked. Dr. Robert Collyer studied phrenology, which focused on the shape of the head and its relation to characteristics and aptitudes believed to reside in separate regions of the brain. He traveled the country performing mesmerization— essentially, hypnotization—on people. Monsieur de Bonneville often served as Collyer’s willing subject and also practiced mesmerism on his own. Collyer would first place his hand on a person’s forehead and, as we see in this portrait, hold one or both hands. Note how Collyer stares into Bonneville’s closed eyes and how physically close, almost entwined, their bodies are. In some cases, Collyer would extract teeth or electrocute sitters to prove the power of mesmerization to control the mind. Recently, scholars have noted that Collyer laid the groundwork for the practice of surgical anesthesia.
A mediados del siglo XIX se difundieron diversas prácticas científicas y pseudocientíficas para tratar de comprender el funcionamiento del cerebro. El Dr. Robert Collyer estudió la teoría llamada frenología, que relacionaba la forma de la cabeza con características y aptitudes que se supone residían en áreas separadas del cerebro. Collyer viajaba por el país practicando el mesmerismo (hipnosis). Monsieur de Bonneville le servía a menudo de sujeto voluntario y también practicaba el mesmerismo por cuenta propia. Collyer comenzaba por colocar su mano en la frente de la persona y luego, como lo vemos en este retrato, le tomaba una o las dos manos. Nótese su fija mirada en los ojos cerrados de Bonneville y su cercanía física: sus cuerpos parecen entrelazarse. En algunos casos Collyer extraía dientes o electrocutaba a sus sujetos para probar que el mesmerismo podía controlar la mente. Algunos estudiosos han afirmado recientemente que Collyer sentó las bases prelimina- res para la práctica de la anestesia quirúrgica.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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