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Painted plaster death mask of James Bloomfield Rush, England, 1849-1900

James Bloomfield Rush (1800-1849) murdered Isaac Jermy (his landlord), and injuried Mrs Jermy and the maid at Stanfield Hall, Norfolk, England, on 28 November 1848. Rush became known as the ‘Killer in the Fog’ and was hanged for his crime on 21 April 1849. This is a plaster copy of his death mask. It is thought that this face was part of a set of phrenological heads known as ‘murderers’ row’. (Phrenologists believed that character could be read from the lumps and bumps of the skull.) This copy may have been made by the Tussaud waxworks who donated this object to the Wellcome collections in 1936.

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Glossary: sculpture

No description.

Glossary: phrenology

The study of the bumps on the outside of the skull in order to determine a person's character. It was based on the mistaken theory that the skull becomes modified according to the size of different parts of the brain.

Glossary: phrenological head

A representation of a human head, on which the phrenological faculties are illustrated. Phrenologists believed that one could tell personality traits by examining the bumps of the skull. The practice is now regarded as a pseudo-science.

Glossary: death mask

A cast taken of a person's face after death, usually made from plaster or wax.