Although the exact origins are unknown, it is widely believed that the unidentified young woman whose death mask fascinated hundreds and saved thousands, was likely a victim of suicide. The story says that her body was pulled out of the River Seine in the late 1880s and showed no signs of violence, thus the suicide claim. Considering the state of her skin and features, some specialists have estimated the girl’s age to be no greater than 16 years. The pathologist at the Paris Morgue was reportedly so fascinated by the female’s beauty, he made a wax death mask.
The pathologist wasn’t the only person charmed by her calmness and beauty as numerous copies of the death mask were created, to the point where many Parisians kept it at home as a fashionable morbid fixture. Some people dwelled on the expression on the girl’s face. Famously, Albert Camus compared the girl’s smile to that of Mona Lisa’s, inviting many speculations about her status, circumstances, and death.
The image spread widely through history, inspiring many art pieces, stories, and novels. Some historians and scholars even note that “The Unknown Woman of the Seine” was a fashion icon with women trying to model their looks on her.
Peter Safar and Asmund Laerdal, the creators of the first aid mannequin Resusci Anne, chose the Seine woman’s death mask as the face of the CPR doll. As the mannequin was used for many CPR courses, “L’Inconnue de la Seine” has been dubbed “the most kissed face” of all time.
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