Mania of suspicion, monomania of pride or acute melancholia are just osme of the obsolete diagnoses that would be seen as part of wider mental illnesses today. The men and women in these portraits became the labels themselves, rather than people first.

Still, by the 1800s, psychiatry was becoming established as a medical speciality and treatments were considered more humane, with a basis in clinical science. The West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, where these portraits were made, was a prime example of an operating Victorian mental institution.

Designed to keep patients isolated from the rest of society, the hospital was entirely self-sufficient with its own bakery, butchery, dairy, shop and laundry and a large estate devoted to farming and market gardening, where the more able patients were expected to work.

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