Two 19th Century Rare Wax Death Masks
Date: 19th Century
PRICE: $ 2,900
Dimensions: H 31cm W 21cm D 15cm
Beautiful anonymous wax death masks, depicting an older male and a young woman.
The young woman mask strikes a resemblance with the 'L'Inconnue de la Seine' death mask. The Unknown Woman of the Seine, was an unidentified young woman whose putative death mask became a popular fixture on the walls of artists' homes after 1900. Her visage inspired numerous literary works. In the United States, the mask is also known as "La Belle Italienne".
Death masks are a curious historical and somewhat macaber phenomenon, they are made by taking casts of the face in wax or plaster, usually hours after death. Death masks made of plaster are more common, I have never seen these hollow wax ones before.
These masks consist of cloth and wax, probably the cloth was used to make the masks more coherent and the wax less fragile, this could not prevent that somewhere in the last 200-250 years some wax loss an some cracking has occurred, please take a good look at the pictures for their condition.
Death masks have been around a long time, they even been found in ancient Egyptian tombs.
Before photography, they were the most truthful representation of the departed.
In the 17th century it was common for a death mask to be used as an aid to portrait sculptures for tomb effigies.
These two Momento Mori masks show great patine and would look stunning just hanging on a wall or standing in a curiosity cabinet.
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