Death mask – a relic of the past or part of the active, but overlooked, sculptural practice?

Casting death masks is one of the oldest sculptural portrait techniques. Immediately after the passing of an important individual, a professional sculptor created a mould of his face and cast a limited number of masks in wax or plaster.

© Domestic Research Society
© Domestic Research Society

Death masks then served (and in some places still serve today) as a memento of the deceased, both in public (on grave markers and commemorations or in a museum setting) and in private (kept by heirs, family members, and sculptors who made the casts).  

The Domestic Research Society and its associates began researching this phenomenon and practice, which appears to be disappearing today. As part of TRACES (Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts: From Intervention to Co-Production), a project funded by the European Commission (Horizon 2020), they have been researching death masks in Slovenian institutional collections from the 19th and 20th centuries. The aim of project TRACES is to go beyond the standard practice of art interventions, and to dedicate special attention the development of the methodology of collaborating with artists in interpreting potentially divisive cultural heritage.

The research presents its results at the exhibition Casting of Death, on view from 1 November 2017 at the Match Gallery (opening: 7 November at 7.00 pm).

Posted: 17. 10. 2017

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