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The Creepy Wax Covered heads of 19th Century Thieves and Murderers

The head of 19th century physician and psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso has been preserved in a glass chamber since his death in 1909.

The former professor of forensic medicine’s sleeping face is now displayed in the Museum of Criminal Anthropology in Turin, Italy, along with the wax-covered heads, brains, body parts and skulls of the soldiers, civilians and convicts whom he studied.

As well as the skull of notorious thief and bandit Giuseppe Villella, the exhibition includes the Gallows of Turin (used in 1865 for Turin’s last hanging) and forms part of the Museum of Man, coordinated by Giacomo Giacobini to celebrate Lombroso’s and Turin’s influence on scientific thinking in criminology, psychology and anthropology.

Although the exhibition opened recently, Lombroso displayed his collection to the public as early as 1884. The spectacle grew as scholars and doctors, who were interested in his work, sent more artifacts from various parts of the world to support his research. In 1892, Lombroso established the Psychiatric and Criminology Museum in Turin, where he formally presented the labelled skulls and wax-covered heads of convicts alongside the tools and weapons which they used to commit their crimes.

As Lombroso was interested in how physical features could indicate whether an individual was prone to crime or ‘madness’, a substantial number of the body parts and possessions, now largely over a century old, were sent or claimed from asylums and prisons and there have reportedly been requests for them to be returned to family members.

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