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How Death Masks Work

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Author's Note: How Death Masks Work

I first learned about death masks a few years ago while I was researching a paper for a course on Russian opera. Thumbing through the pages of Tchaikovsky's biography, I stopped on a photograph of the great composer, or more precisely his corpse. The facing page featured his death mask, almost an exact mirror of the photograph. I couldn't tear myself away, and I stared at the death mask until I remembered I had deadlines to meet. Every now and then, I remembered the death mask but never really knew what it was. Writing this article helped me understand the strange plaster cast I saw. Death masks (and life masks) humanize the figures of history for me. I'm inspired to make my own life mask now, if only to scare my friends.

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  • Gibson, Iris I.J.M. "Death Masks Unlimited." British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Edition). Vol. 291, no. 6511. Pages 1785-1787. December 21-28, 1985.
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