Death masks — they have been around since the days of King Tut in Ancient Egypt, and (perhaps) Agamemnon and Cassandra in Ancient Greece. A way to remember the character and expressions of the dead, this memorial practice continued right down through the Middle Ages when wax and plaster became the materials of choice.
Today, we’re left with facial imprints of important historical leaders (Cromwell, Napoleon, Peter the Great); cultural giants (Dante, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Newton, Beethoven, James Joyce, Nietzsche); and some recently more departed icons (Hitchcock and Timothy Leary).
Princeton University hosts online a fairly large collection of Life and Death Masks, and the good folks at Biblioklept highlight masks of the intelligent, powerful and famous on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately these collections skew almost entirely male – a sign of the times that came before us.
Above, you can see the masks of Nietzsche, Dante, and Joyce moving from top to bottom.