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Friday, April 10, 2020

Researching Death Masks - Do U Know What they Are?

 Victorian Crooks

Do you know what a death mask is?

So many authors write about historical eras, think Westerns, Regency, Medieval. Have you ever wondered what these real-life characters looked like? I know I have and was fascinated to run across some articles about 'Death Masks".

Before photography came along, death masks served as a reference for painters and sculptors to depict the noble and the famous. They were extremely, even eerily, accurate impressions of their subject, made from plaster or wax in the first hours after death 

A resemblance of a person’s face, made either from a wax or a plaster cast, subsequent to death and directly from the dead body is essentially what a “death mask” is all about. Death masks have been used in large-scale as an effective means to consign the dead individual to an ever-lasting memory.

Death masks have found a prominent niche either as keepsakes of the dead or for the making of portraits. Sometimes, during the course of the making of the masks, the eyes were slightly tweaked to infuse a hint of aliveness on the subject. To retain the natural humanly elements, these casts brought the actual features out into the open by doing away with any kind of perfections.

The oldest-known European example of a death mask belongs to the face of Edward III, king of England. He reigned from 1327 until his death in 1377 [source: Gibson]. With the dawn of the Renaissance, artists began to perfect realistic portraits of their subjects. Death masks weren't necessarily needed anymore, so why keep making them? The masks had become mementos of the dead. It's the last likeness of a loved one a family can own, and a death mask preserves what some consider to be the very essence of a person -- their face. The plaster negative could be used to make multiple positives out of stone, metal or wax that could then be shared to commemorate the dead. Royal and wealthy families proudly displayed their macabre reminders of the recently deceased.
[Source: Gibson]

There are, literally, hundreds of articles about death masks, so I won't go into great detail about them, but rather I'll show you some pictures of some of the most famous that had death masks made. And, you can refer to some other sites to see more (links below)

These aren't Death Masks, but faces of the past cast in a new light: Historical artist transforms famous figures including Ned Kelly and Harry Houdini in fascinating set of colorized portraits.

One never knows where an Author's research will take them. I hope you enjoyed the article about Death Masks and how, in some ways, history was preserved through them!
Keta Diablo lives in the Midwest part of the United States on six acres of gorgeous woodland. When she isn't writing or gardening, she loves to commune with nature. A pair of barn owls returns to the property every year to birth their young and show them off in the high branches of the oak trees. Nothing more adorable than these white fluffy babies with heart-shaped faces. A lifelong animal lover, Keta devotes her time and support to the local animal shelter. Emma LaPounce, a rescued feline, has been her furry companion for the last ten years. 

Keta is an award-winning and Amazon bestselling author who writes in several genres: Western Romance, Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance and Contemporary Romance. Occasionally, she writes Gay Romance. Her books have received numerous accolades, including RWA contest finalist, Authors After Dark finalist, Top Pick of the Month and Recommended Review from many top review sites, and Best Romance Finalist from The Independent Author Network.  

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  1. Creepy! But an interesting read. And when you think about the death masks, they were a part of preserving history for future generations. Wishing you a Joyous Easter/Passover. Stay safe.

  2. That's an interesting post, Keta. I guess they seem macabre to us, but they served a good purpose historically. Happy Easter or Passover and lots of wishes for many books sales.


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