View Full Version : Death Masks

03-22-2014, 05:40 PM
I'm quite fascinated by death masks. If you don't know what they are, these are direct casts from the face of the deceased, and were extremely common in the days before photography. They were used for identification of the dead by the authorities; if your unidentified body turned up, the authorities would make a death mask and could then cast multiple copies of it, and send officials around the town trying to find people who could name you (such as this famous example (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L'Inconnue_de_la_Seine)). In the case of famous people, they were saved as an aid to the person's immortal fame, and for the use of painters and sculptors to continue producing art with the celebrity's image.

Sometimes death masks can help us to correct misconceptions. If you look at paintings of Mary I of Scotland (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary,_Queen_of_Scots), you'll see she has rather a severe look about her. Since her paintings all seem to agree on her appearance, we would tend to assume that image is correct. However, this is her actual death mask (http://commandopera.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/The-Death-Mask-of-Mary-Queen-of-Scots.jpg): rather a pretty face with small features, not unlike Jodie Foster.

So I thought I'd add some of death masks of people who were famous during the years of the French Revolution, since some differ a lot from the commonly held images and might surprise you. It might be interesting to see how the AC version diverge from the reality.

Marie Antoinette (It is said that Madame Tussaud was personally invited to cast directly from the head -- perhaps it's difficult to make a mould from a severed head? Something is a bit odd about this one!)


Louis XVI


Maximilien Robespierre (another, better, cast by Tussaud)


Thomas Paine


Napoleon Bonaparte


... and if England gets a look-in, maybe Edmund Burke?


03-22-2014, 05:53 PM
Jean-Paul Marat, assassinated by Charlotte Corday


03-22-2014, 06:11 PM
A reconstruction of Robespierre face based on his death mask.


03-22-2014, 06:32 PM
Nice addition!


Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau


03-22-2014, 06:38 PM
Its so cosy here.

03-22-2014, 06:41 PM
Fascinating stuff! :p

03-22-2014, 06:55 PM
Frustratingly, although I can find several mentions that Tussaud also cast a death mask of Marat's assassin Charlotte Corday, I cannot find a photo of it. Does anyone know where I might find one?

Apparently she also cast the head of the Princess de Lamballe's severed head, still soaked in blood just after the princess was hacked to pieces by the leaders of a street mob. Marie Tussaud personally knew and liked the Princess, as well as many of the other Revolution figures she was forced to remodel in death.

03-22-2014, 10:32 PM
This is creepy and awesome!