A Good Mid-20thC Plaster Death Mask of a Young Gentleman

Origin: Probably Continental
Period: Early/Mid 20thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1940-60
Height: 11”
Depth: 6.5”
Width: 7.5” (at extremities)

The life size thick heavy set plaster moulded death mask, well cast of a young gentleman, showing him in the serenity of passing, surviving from the first half of the twentieth century and probably continental in origin.

In original condition the mask remains in one piece without damage. It does not suffer from any chips or cracks and as such, thankfully, is presented in very good overall order.

This good quality and nicely cast mask shows a slightly effeminate and relatively young male, with full lips, probably in his late twenties or early thirties, in good defined detail, calm and serene, at peace with his memory beautifully upheld. The piece isn’t hollowed out to the rear so it is substantial and rather heavier than most masks of this type.

Death masks are an impression or cast of the face of a deceased person, usually made by oiling the skin and taking a plaster cast of the features, and are the most haunting mementos of the deceased. They have been in existence since the time of Tutankhamun, whose solid gold burial mask is an object of extreme beauty and superstition. Such masks could be used either in a funerary effigy or as a model for a posthumous portrait. It was important that a death mask was made as soon as possible after death so that the character of the deceased was captured before the features started to fall.

A particularly calm example of a death mask, its features bathing in serenity echoing the words of Virginia Woolf; “Life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”