Sunday, January 30, 2011

Facies Dolorosa

In 1934, the German diagnostician Prof. Dr. Hans Killian published an amazing book of 64 portraits of his dying patients. The first edition of Facies Dolorosa was printed using the collotype process and is extremely rare and expensive. Subsequent editions printed in half-tone are sometimes found, although still rare and valuable.

These portraits were seen as a scientific work of empirical observation; a theory Dr. Killian was propounding whereby the underlying diagnosis of a person's illness could be seen written in the tensions and expressions on their faces. In spite of being clinical in intent and approach, there is nevertheless an amazing terrible beauty in these faces. Shot close up and obliquely, the portraits resonate with an odd tension between the intimate and the dispassionate.

Here are few examples from this amazing book. Two patients are shown pre- and post-mortem.

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