The Organs of the Senses Familiarly Described, Plates 13, 16, 17, and 18

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Item Description: 

It is important to begin with Charles Bell’s work on the ear because it establishes what was known during the Romantic period about the form and function of the ear; consequently, the gallery viewer should be able to contextualize the rest of the gallery by establishing the ear as the lens through which the gallery should be interpreted. While still a visual depiction of the ear, the image indicates that the aural sense is the focalizing one for this project. In addition, this information concerning the ear allows for a brief engagement with the role of the Romantic observer. Since Romantic natural philosophers were invested not only in the phenomena they were observing, but also in the way that the phenomena were observed, a depiction of the ear and a description of its role in the Romantic scientific field is crucial. The anatomical illustrations present this Romantic concern and allow the viewer space to think about how this might function in the context of the ear, music, and acoustics. Finally, the fact that Charles Bell, a doctor and anatomist, illustrated the plates, exemplifies the interplay of science and art that occurred during the Romantic period.