(Above) Life mask of William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and death mask of Samuel Hayes Pennington (1806-1900).

(Above) Death mask of Henry Warner Slocum (1827-1894); and death mask of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).

(Above) Death mask on decorated shield of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) and life mask of Robert E. Lee (1807-1870).

(Above) Life mask of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) and life mask of John James Audubon (1785-1851).

(Above) Life mask of John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) and life mask of Abraham Lincoln (1808-1865).

I came across these life and death masks on the Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks at Princeton University’s on-line rare books collection. Looking at one of these is as close to the real thing as you can get. I only wish Lincoln had eyes.

It’s a cool thing to think of someone agreeing to have their face wrapped in plaster of Paris gauze, then sit for it to dry, etc. It’s a very tedious thing to do. The dead ones are always easy. They don’t blink and never complain.

An AM Repost from 1/18/09.