Wednesday, December 08, 2010

HFBRT Christine Trent A ROYAL LIKENESS Event: Death Masks of Europe


Since HFBRT is rolling out the red carpet for Christine Trent I figured it was about dang time for a good creative post. Plus the story inspired me to do some research of my own to see some of these mentioned death masks that were made by Madame Tussaud. The subject can be a bit disturbing but I think it is morbidly interesting. I mean really who would have known Napoleon's nose was so big, it did not show like that in the paintings. Even with that nose I still think that he was a very handsome man. In the up coming new release of "A Royal Likeness" Trent covers the later years of Madame Tussuad's life in England which does not include anymore death masks with the novels main character Marguerite. The picture above is the current Marie Antoinette at Madame Tussaud's exhibit in London.

"Tussaud was employed to make death masks of the victims of the guillotine. When the mob stormed the Bastille, Madame Tussaud was forced to make death masks of the revolutions most infamous dead such as Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat, and Robespierre. Her death masks were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris. Soon, Madame Tussaud was searching through sanitaries collecting the most illustrious heads she could find".

"In Western cultures a death mask is a wax or plaster cast made of a person’s face following death. Death masks may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits. It is sometimes possible to identify portraits that have been painted from death masks, because of the characteristic slight distortions of the features caused by the weight of the plaster during the making of the mold. In other cultures a death mask may be a clay or other artifact placed on the face of the deceased before burial rites. The best known of these are the masks used by ancient Egyptians as part of the mummification process, such as Tutankhamon’s burial mask".

Creepy but one good thing that has come out of these masks is that one death mask known as L'Inconnue de la Seine which was taken in late 1880s in Paris of a unidentified woman who was found to have drowned in the Seine River. The masks original purpose was to serve like a Jane Doe picture in helping the relatives of the deceased recognize them if they were seeking a missing person. Many people found L'Inconnue de la Seine so beautiful that it became the fashion to have a mask of her in ones home. Her mask has been in use even today it has helped give a face to "the the world’s first CPR training mannequin, introduced in 1960, was modeled after L'Inconnue de la Seine" her name is Rescue Anne.
L'Inconnue de la Seine and Rescue Anne

!Readers Beware below is not meant for the faint of heart! 
Vice Admiral Lord Nelson life Mask. 
"Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake we must not interrupt him too soon".
"I have only one eye, I have a right to be blind sometimes... I really do not see the signal"!

Death masks of Louis XVI on the far left with Robespierre next to him and Marie Antoinette on the far right.

Henry VII, death mask.

Henry VIII as a child, said to be made from a life mask but not confirmed to be him. 
"We are, by the sufferance of God, King of England; and the Kings of England in times past never had any superior but God." 

Death mask of Charles XII, King of Sweden. 
"Why then are you sad? God and I are still alive".

Mozart's death mask. 
“To talk well and eloquently is a very great art, but that an equally great one is to know the right moment to stop.”
“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” 

Beethoven's life mask.
"Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning this great goddess"? 
"What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven". 

Mary Queen of Scots. 
"In my end is my beginning". 

Napoleon's death mask that was taken at St. Helena. 
"It is the cause, not the death, that makes the martyr". 
"In politics stupidity is not a handicap". 
"A throne is only a bench covered with velvet". 
"A leader is a dealer in hope". 

Death Mask by Madame Tussuad of Marie Antoinette.
“I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children. My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long.” 

Death mask and gloves of Martin Luther. 
"I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self". 
"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess". 
"When schools flourish, all flourishes". 
"You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say".

Making a death mask.

Main Page, Schedule of Events
Check out my review of "The Queens Dollmaker"
Hitting bookstores everywhere December 28th 2010

"As heiress to the famous Laurent Fashion Dolls business, Marguerite Ashby's future seems secure. But France still seethes with violence in the wake of the Revolution. And when Marguerite's husband is killed during a riot, the young widow travels to Edinburgh and becomes apprentice to her old friend, Marie Tussaud, who has established a wax exhibition. When Prime Minister William Pitt commissions a wax figure of Admiral Nelson, Marguerite becomes immersed in a dangerous adventure - and earns the admiration of two very different men. And as Britain battles to overthrow Napoleon, Marguerite will find her loyalties under fire from all sides. With a masterful eye for details, Christine Trent brings one of history's most fascinating eras to life in of a story of desire, ambition, treachery, and courage".

For More on Christine Trent:
Christine's Website
Subscribe to her newsletter

The Queen's DollmakerA Royal Likeness


  1. Looks like this book is a must read for me!

  2. You know, in a way it was the manner of almost keeping them alive.
    Some of those surprised me as they look nothing like most portraits. Since many artists strove to please their patrons they would ignore or downplay flaws.

    Napoleon looks nothing like he is most often portrayed.

    Fascinating post.

  3. Absolutely fascinating post! It is so cool to get a better representation of what these people I have read so much about REALLY looked like. So often the paintings just don't do it!

  4. This is an amazing post, Lizzy. One of my favorites, ever. It's fascinating to see what these historical figures really looked like. Thanks for all the images and the poignant and pertinent quotes you found from the personages themselves.

  5. Wow, Lizzy, I discovered your blog at a perfect time! The death masks of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI are so stirring and really inform my own research as I work on my novels about Marie Antoinette. Paintings can only show one dimension and sculptures flatter. But the death masks, macabre as they are, give us a far better sense of what Marie Antoinette and Louis actually looked like.

    I wonder how Madame Tussaud felt being forced by the Revolutionaries to accomplish such a gruesome task for posterity. Did she think about it at the time? Did she think about the stench? I think about the photo-journalists who cover war zones and other tragedies and have to document them for posterity. How do they set aside their feelings so they can do their work?

    And I'll be sure to check out Christine Trent's A ROYAL LIKENESS!

  6. Virginiebarbeau, trust me it is a must. By far I love a unique story line and the wax work added a whole new aspect to the book that I loved.

    Pricilla, I know can you believe thy were used in helping families identify lost loved ones, I guess they had to since there was no photography then. I know right they so have down played there flaws and this shows the true them. Napoleon shocked me the most he looks nothing like his paintings. But I was thinking about it and maybe just maybe he looks so different because of the hard years he spent in St. Helena, maybe that slow poisoning of arsenic the British gave him tore him up before he died.

    Colleen, I agree the painting like fantasize them and make them more perfect than they really are. But I guess that is par for the course when you are a ruler.

    Leslie, Hehe I am glad you like them I was so so excited for everyone to see the post. I am HAPPY happy that everyone is enjoying it as much as me. What I omitted that was really fascinating was George Washington and Abe Lincoln both had life masks made too. George shocked me really he was a handsome man. The one that scared me the most besides Martin Luther is Joseph Smith had one made and he is one of the founders of the Mormon church and he had a death mask made. It was CREEPY to say the least.

    Juliet, WELCOME and yes you did find em on the perfect day! I am so glad you enjoyed the post. I love the picture of Wax Marie at the top that is how I picture her not that scary head below. She must have been beautiful. Oooh your working on a novel about MA? Sounds very intriguing!!!!

    I also wonder about Madame and how she really felt about the forced masks. I am really looking forward to Michelle Moran's release about Madame's early years in France during the revolution. I know it is a scary thought to have to put aside personal feeling to see something so horrific.

  7. Wow - these are all fantastic and I would never have thought so of them looked like that. Simply and amazing post, Lizzy.

  8. Lizzy, you found some death/life mask photos I'd never seen before. The Martin Luther mask/gloves were particularly fascinating to me. Great research for your article.

  9. Dolleygurl, that is what I thought I never would have thought. Napoleon shocked me the most. Thank you I am just happy to share.

    Christine, Welcome welcome I am so happy to see you paid a visit. Martin Luther really looks scary but it is interesting to see what he really looked like. I swear it is the eyes of his that have a creepy look to it. I am glad you enjoyed the post I was so excited for everyone to see it and thank you for inspiring me to write about it.

  10. Lizzy, this post is fantastic! I enjoyed seeing all the death masks. KUDOS! I am so happy I found this blog...
    Well I had a little help from Christine. :-)

  11. Thank you for taking the time to research this topic. It is most interesting. Napoleon's was the one that surprised me the most. His face was longer than I expected and the profile was a surprise. It is much more prominent than it appears in paintings. What was surprising was how lovely several of them were. I can see how it would be a good way to have a likeness of someone since photography wasn't an option.
    Curious about Rescue-Anne. I wonder why they decided to use such an old mask to copy it from. She was a pretty woman.

  12. Meljprincess, I am so so glad you found me and thank you to Christine for sending you my way. I always love positive feedback. I love it when I find a blog that is all the stuff I like because it is like where have you been all my life?

    Librarypat, hey there! I know Napoleon really did shock me too. I also did not anticipate the more prominent features. In so many of his paintings he is more soft and rounded rather that longer and angular like the mask. It really is nice to get a glimpse of the real him. You know I tried to find that out about Rescue-Annie. Maybe it was because the mask was so fashionable for so long it France it just carried over into modern times. She was a beautiful woman, I think it is her expression that is more moving than her beauty. She looks almost happy to be dead, weird right?

  13. The reason why Napoleon's death mask may not look anything like him is that historians believe his real death mask was accidentally broken. To cover up the blunder, the mask was replaced with one cast from someone who somewhat may have resembled him.

  14. Leokiddi469, really I never came across any mention of that in my research on it. Very interesting and thanks for sharing!

  15. I have been looking at death masks for weeks on Bing and Google. I am obsessed with unearthing a royal like Henry VIII to reconstruct his face to see what he really looked like, get DNA if possible to see what he really died from. It is a fact that royal painters added much to their subjects. Elizabeth I death mask looks NOTHING like her paintings.

    1. Allison, I agree the paintings are all romantisied and really give a gauge idea of what they were really like. I guess that went with the times then. Too bad we suffer for it now. I have not seen the Elizabeth I death mask but I bet it looks nothing like I would expect.

  16. I don't suppose it matters too much, but the Beethoven mask you have is his life mask, not his death mask. The life mask was done 15 years before his death. The death mask looks quite different.

    1. Thanks for the heads up Dan I had a really hard time finding any information on the mask. I appreciate your insight.

  17. Read my article "Marie Antoinette: History's Fortean Queen" at PublisHistory as to how the future Madame Tussard created the Queen's death mask.

    1. Sounds interesting can you send me a link though?

  18. Fantastic post and pictures. It's so amazing and so interesting to see what all these historical people really looked like. Such well done work, so caring and loving.

    1. Thank you Nanci this post is bar far my favorite and notable. I really enjoyed putting this one together because like you mentioned it is fascinating to see what they actually looked like.


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