Is Beauty a concept that is ephemeral for a moment, or is it eternal? The body of the young female drowning victim was pulled out of the Seine River at the Quai du Louvre in Paris around the late 1880s. The girl child was never identified and no one ever came to claim her; it was assumed she was a suicide as there were no signs of a struggle on her body. However, the serene loveliness of her expression encouraged a pathologist to make a cast death mask of her face. Plaster copies of this death mask went on to decorate the sitting rooms and studios of artists and other fashionable people throughout Europe and North America, becoming the muse for thousands of artworks and literary works.
L’Inconnue de la Seine means ‘The Unknown Woman of the Seine’ in French, and in America she was known as La Belle Italienne. The death mask inspired so many others with her Mona Lisa smile.
This death mask was also used as the basis to Resusci Anne – the CPR dummy that everyone uses to learn first aid techniques. This means this face has been kissed over a million times, by people learning to save lives, including drowning victims. Not a bad way to be remembered.