A Particularly Large Mid-20thC Plaster Death Mask of a Gentleman

Origin: Probably English
Period: Mid 20thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1940-60
Height: 15”
Depth: 7”
Width: 11” (at extremities)

The particularly large life size three quarter bust thick heavy set plaster moulded death mask in ochre, of a large gentleman, showing him in the serenity of passing, and of particularly pleasing proportions with good detailing, surviving from the middle of the twentieth century and probably of English origin.

In mainly original condition the mask remains in one piece without damage aside from loss to the tip of the nose. It does not suffer from any further chips or cracks. There are some light tarnish marks here and there and wear to the extremities. The finish is interesting, seemingly having almost freshly come off the mould with some remnants of rubber.

This nicely detailed mask shows a large and burly gent, probably 40-50 years old, fully balding, his ears also fully cast. And it is rare to see a mask like this being three quarter bust in size. The patination is also interesting to the surface and there is something rather special about this example.

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.

The largest and one of the most interesting masks we’ve come across to date, and as such it proves a particularly imposing reminder of our mortality.