Giovanni Battista Della Porta’s “De humana physiognomonia”

Giovanni Battista Della Porta, “De humana physiognomonia”

Giovanni Battista Della Porta (1535-1615) was a philosopher and alchemist born in Campania. In 1586, he published “De humana physiognomonia” for Giuseppe Cacchi, a publisher in Vico Equense.

The four-book series is dedicated to physiognomic theories, the non-science based on the idea that physical features are tied to a person’s moral and psychological traits. Della Porta’s text explores the hidden “sympathies” – as he called relations – between human beings and animals.

In researching material for his work, Della Porta visited a range of places including, of course, “the public jail, where a great number of thieves, parricides, killers, and other similar people are always locked up.” He compared the faces he observed with animals, finding connections and giving interpretations.

Here is a selection of the interesting comparisons he made.

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July 20, 2015