Archive for May 19th, 2010

Death Mask of Benjamin Franklin

I was looking up some biographical info on Thomas Paine, the English-born pamphleteer whose treatises helped ignite both the American and French Revolutions.  His life would make a wonderfully thought-provoking and sad movie.  Anyway, in the course of doing this research, I came across an image of his death mask.  There was a link that took me to an interesting site, the Laurence Hutton Collection at Princeton University.

The site is a collection of masks of many notables,  some made while the subjects were alive but most from after their death.  It may seem somewhat morbid to some but there was something very beautiful in these faces, as cool and vacant as they may seem.   It’s as though all the layers of history and mythology are stripped away, revealing their true being and common humanity.  There is no posing, no interpretation by the artist to make them appear more heroic or wise.  Just what remains quietly at the end of their existence.  They are what they are.

Death Mask of Napoleon

Death Mask of Thomas Paine

Death Mask of Sir Isaac Newton

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