Know thyself? Did Phrenology help William Powell Frith address middleclass Victorian crowd anxiety? by Jane de Beneducci
Lorenzo Niles Fowler’s Phrenology bust of circa 1850 has achieved a modern iconic status as an artefact that represents either a quackish pseudoscience or early attempts to understand the functions of the brain. Fowler maintained that Phrenology could allow you to ‘know yourself’. This article will investigate the history and context of Phrenology to understand why knowing thyself and others aided William Powell Frith’s painting Ramsgate Sands (Life at the Seaside) (1854) to be interpreted by the public as a celebration of the crowd.