Posts tagged: Eustache Belin

Warren Museum Conserves Eustache Belin Phrenology Cast

By , May 25, 2014

Phrenology cast of Eustache Belin, Warren Anatomical Museum, Francis. A. Countway Library [WAM 03235]

Phrenology cast of Eustache Belin, Warren Anatomical Museum, Francis. A. Countway Library [WAM 03235]

The Warren Anatomical Museum recently conserved a phrenology cast of Eustache Belin, formerly of the collection of the Boston Phrenological Society. The Society existed approximately from 1832 to 1842. It possessed a rich cabinet of head, skull and face casts, many of which came from estate of famed phrenologist Johann Gaspar Spurzheim. The Society was formed in Spurzheim’s honor after his death from typhoid in 1832.

The Belin cast was not part of Spurzheim’s collection. The Phrenological Society most likely acquired a copy of a Belin cast from Edinburgh Phrenological Society founder George Combe when his American lecture tour stopped in Boston in 1838. Combe derived his cast from the original cast created by the Paris Phrenological Society. Belin had lived in Paris and died there in 1835.

The phrenologists used the casts of Eustache Belin as evidence of the regions of benevolence and courage. Belin was born into slavery in 1773 in Santo Domingo. During a rebellion on the island in 1791, he was reported to have saved more than 400 people from harm, including the man who held him in slavery, a Monsieur Belin de Villeneuve. Eustache, Monsieur Belin, and a group of refugees escaped Santo Domingo on a boat headed for Baltimore. After this boat was captured by English pirates, Belin led a revolt and overthrew the pirates. When Belin moved to Paris, after obtaining his freedom, he was known to give most of his resources to the disadvantaged.

The Warren Museum’s cast of Belin had suffered a fracture during one of the Boston Phrenological Society collection’s many moves since it was donated to the Medical School by John Collins Warren in 1849. The fracture had split the back of head away from the main cast. Object and art conservator Nina Vinogradskaya attached the broken elements back to the main cast and consolidated and repaired other broken sections of the cast with excellent results.





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