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c. 1321-1941Death masks. Faces from beyond the grave

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911).

While decorative funeral masks have been used to adorn the dead since ancient times, from those gracing Tutankhamen to Agamemnon, death masks record the very contours of a person’s face at the time of their death.

Ancient sculpted masks were supplanted in the late Middle Ages by true death masks, which are created by making a wax or plaster cast of a person’s face shortly after their death.

Death masks were made to preserve the visages of royal and otherwise notable people, from kings and conquerors to authors, composers and poets.

The haunting likenesses could then be used to create a sculpture or portrait, aid the scientific study of physiognomy or even help loved ones identify a body.

Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727).

Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805).

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658).

Martin Luther (1483-1546).

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

John Keats (1795-1821).

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847).

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831).

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).

Franz Liszt (1811-1886).

William Blake (1757 - 1827).

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).

Cosima Wagner (1837-1930).

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