Death masks were popular before the photography process. Cameras killed this ritual in the late 19th century. It was considered an honor for famous people to have a death mask before the burial. Wax, plaster, or mud is applied to their faces to create the mask. It was a way for the living to reconnect with the past or to memorialize the dead. There were two types of masks ‘life mask’ created when the person is alive and the ‘death mask’ and were made after the death. Both serve different purposes. Sculptors and artists use ‘Life masks’ to capture the actual impression of the subject, while the ‘Death mask’ was created to memorialize the dead.
Death masks were also known as funeral masks, and they were also created in ancient Egypt as part of the mummification process. Throughout history, the process remained the same. The corpse’s face would be lubricated or protected in gauze before clay or wax was applied to make an imprint of the deceased’s features. After the material dried, it was removed.
Musicians, poets, leaders, philosophers, queens, and several other famous people had the honor to have the Death masks. When Queen Victoria died, her grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany, tried to have a death mask. The family members of the British Royal family forbade. The popularity of Photography made death masks unnecessary. Here below are some death masks of some famous people.