Thursday, 12 March 2009

Art from Nature’s Workshop

Just stumbled across an extraordinary blog, Undying Faces, which is dedicated 'to the history and preservation of life and death masks'. Death masks do have a certain uncanny appeal - check out the one of David Garrick: it looks so much like many of his portraits (complete with the big Huguenot nose!) and the one of Swift gives me the shivers. For a complete run-down of masks from the 1700s, click here.

Above: bust of David Garrick from Garrick's Temple to Shakespeare.

Photograph © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.

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7 comments:

Eliza Ward said...

Haven't been here in a few days, and it looks like I've missed a lot! Regarding the death mask site, I haven't visited it yet, but I think it's safe to say ahead of time, "Ewwwww!"

Mrs Woffington said...

Glad to have you drop by when you can Eliza! I've got to say, the odd thing about those masks is that they look really lifelike, as if the person is asleep. Weird...

Eliza Ward said...

Yeah, that's what's so "gross" about it. It's like looking right at a corpse. And yet I managed to look at it right before bed last night and didn't have nightmares! (Which is ironic as a few days ago I watched an Agatha Christie movie before bed, and then dreamed that my friend died!)

Mrs Woffington said...

Yup, death masks is one fashion I'm pleased is over! :)

Halldor said...

Surely the value of death masks was as the only way to obtain a true likeness? We still dispute whether Roubiliac, or Hogarth, or Heyman, captured the true likeness of Garrick - but there can be no question at all that the death mask is the real thing; the only likeness that is absolutely beyond dispute.

In an age before photography, that must have given them a unique value, even if the notion seems a bit creepy today.

janeaustensworld said...

They look like they're sleeping deeply. It's knowing that they were dead that makes it a bit voyeuristic.

I love this blog, Mrs. Woffie, and have nominated it for a Sisterhood award. May you continue to give us interesting historical tidbits in the months to come. Vic

http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/book-giveaway-in-celebration-of-your-many-visits-to-this-blog/

Mrs Woffington said...

Thank you Halldor! Garrick was, of course, very difficult to capture because his face was so expressive (Hogarth had such trouble with the Richard III portrait that he ended up cutting the head out of the canvas and pasting it over with a fresh piece). So yes, this is the ultimate portrait.

And thank you again Vic for the support - it means a lot as I try to juggle everything with blogging - not always easy, as you no doubt know :)