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In pictures: Famous death masks

A series of deaths masks for commemorating the powerful and famous, from monarchs to musicians.
Jan 29th 2012, 5:00 PM 36,712 10

DEATH MASKS of the rich and famous in bygone centuries were traditionally made by creating a mould over a person’s face after their death and using that mould to make plaster or wax masks.

These masks were sometimes then embellished by painting features, or adding hair, and the British Museum says that the masks were often used by artists as models for posthumous portraits.

Some masks were treated as collectors’ items for display or were passed down through families for generations, such as that of Mary Queen of Scots (included in the gallery below), which was held by the Duke of Hamilton’s family in Scotland for 250 years.

Earlier this week, a bonze cast of the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin which was made from the original plaster death mask was sold along with casts of his two hands for £3,600 at auction.

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Susan Ryan

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