The Postmortem Portraits of Phineas Gage

Picture: John Darrell Van Horn (C)

Vaughan Bell writes at Mind Hacks:

A new artform has emerged – the post-mortem neuroportrait. Its finest subject, Phineas Gage.

Gage was a worker extending the tracks of the great railways and suffered the most spectacular injury. As he was setting a gunpowder charge in a rock with a large tamping iron, the powder was lit by an accidental spark. The iron was launched through his skull.

He became famous in neuroscience because he lived – rare for the time – and had psychological changes as a result of his neurological damage.

His story has been better told elsewhere but the interest has not died – studies on Gage’s injury have continued to the present day.

There is a scientific veneer, of course, but it’s clear that the fascination with the freak Phineas has its own morbid undercurrents.

The image is key.

The first such picture was constructed with nothing more than pen and ink. Gage’s doctor John Harlow sketched his skull which Harlow had acquired after the patient’s death.

This Gage is forever fleshless, the iron stuck mid-flight, the shattered skull frozen as it fragments into pieces.

Harlow’s sketch is the original and the originator. The first impression of Gage’s immortal soul.

Gage rested as this rough sketch for over 100 years but he would rise again.

Read more here.

2 Comments on "The Postmortem Portraits of Phineas Gage"

  1. I’ve seen this before. Excellent share.

  2. Hadrian999 | Mar 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm |

    it’s amazing what the human body can survive

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