A mask it’s a piece of material (it can be fabric, plaster, wood, plastic, gold, leather or others) that is used on the face, covering it. The word comes from the French term more than or from italian maschera, although his more remote antecedents are the ancestors in Latin mascus (“ghost”) and in Arabic maskharah (“jester”).
In some cultures, there is a belief that wearing a mask will allow the wearer to would acquire the qualities of the representation of said mask. For example, a lion mask will induce the wearer to acquire characteristics of that animal and to behave as such.
The masks fulfill various functions: rituals, social, religious, from entertainment and others. They can be used in theater plays, as part of the carnival celebrations or to imitate certain characters. They can also serve as protection in the middle of a confrontation or to hide identity.
In the case of death masks, known as “Death masks”, are created from the face of a recently deceased person, with the intention of preserve your portrait in the most realistic way possible. They were very common during the 18th centuries and XIX in the western world, especially with well-known personalities. In any case, this practice had its origin at the time roman and egyptian.
The Mexican Revolutionary Pancho Villa, the french emperor Napoleon bonaparte, Argentine politics Eva Peron, the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven, the british poet William Shakespeare and the egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun are some of the historical figures that have their death masks.
It is worth mentioning that the death mask does not offer us a look at these and other prominent personalities of the historybut to their faces once they had passed away. There are many people who consider this macabre practice, in bad taste and unnecessary, since many of them lived in times when portraits and sculptures already existed, so it was not even the only way to immortalize their aspects.
In fact, if we are a little meticulous, How to immortalize someone who has already died? The death mask is for many another example of our fear of death, one of the many negative consequences of having distanced ourselves from nature. The rest of the animal species accept death with total naturalness, and take full advantage of their lives, two things that human beings should learn.
The dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy indicates that the most appropriate term to mention the death mask is actually funeral mask, although it is not the most used in everyday speech.
With respect to process of making the death mask, can be obtained using a technique known as emptied, which must be done in several phases and is very common in the field of sculpture, both for individual parts and for complete pieces, and can be done with different materials. In this case, the plaster was used.
In short, casting is done through the use of a mold into which a casting of a liquid plastic capable of solidifying, molten metal or cast. The mold fills as a result of the material used to fill it. After applying this technique, the copy of the face was reproduced using fluid materials such as beeswax, whose melting point is especially low, or it was combined with resins to achieve the best results. We must not forget that in this case two inverse processes must be carried out: the mold is made with the face of the deceased and finally filled to reproduce its original shape.