Sunday 1 December 2013

Death mask of Robespierre

Musée Carnavalet
Isn't it great?  I came across this completely deranged image in an e-version of an old French booBehind the scenes in the Terror by Hector Fleischmann ( English version 1914). There is no further comment or explanation.
Hutton Collection

Fleischmann is still regularly acknowledged as author of the most detailed study of Robespierre death masks, but frustratingly his little monograph is unobtainable, apart from a few snippets on Google Books. Apparently he was a sceptic:  "Many death masks of Robespierre exist, all false, reconstituted after the fact from portraits", summarises Antoine de Baecque, (p.167).   

It is surprisingly difficult to pin down what  Robespierre "death masks" actually existed.  Vivant Denon once owned one. The only two examples documented on the internet are in the Hutton Collection and a bronze in the Musée Carnavalet, both copies from Madame Tussaud's original mould. There is no clear  provenance accessible in either case.


Hector Fleischmann, Behind the scenes in the Terror (1914), plate.p.128.

_______,  Le masque mortuaire de Robespierre. Documents nouveaux pour servir d’intelligence et de conclusion à une polémique historique..., Paris, E. Leroux (1911) 26 p.

Hutton collection: Death mask, from the original in Tussaud Gallery, London.

 Portraits in plaster from the collection of Laurence Hutton (1894) p.75

Antoine de Baecque, Glory and terror : seven deaths under the French Revolution (2001)[Relevant passages are available in the preview on Amazon or Google Books].Reproduction of the Carnavalet head , p.144.

See also the discussion:


  1. It is nothing of "the deranged" at all!

    In her writings, Madame Tussaud was crystal-clear about that day she was called upon to take the portrait of the freshly-dead Robespierre "d'apres execution".

    This particular item was modeled by the Madame's own hands. It was later destroyed in a fire in London in, I think, the mid-Twenties.

    Fortunately, it had been photographed before.

    THIS is how the murdering bastard appeared, complete with his partially blown-off jaw kept intact by a bloody bandage. (After having been siezed, while imprisoned, he attempted suicide, but failed.) This monster, murderer of thousands and more, SUFFERED GREATLY in death. Good! As well as all such should.

    This portrait is far more truthful as to his appearance in death, than any engraving or, afterward-created imagining. Tussaud got 'em for her work first, while still warm.

    No, not at all deranged as to truth.

    1. I've since discovered this is one of a set of waxworks from Tussauds - I stand by my judgment on its weirdness!
      For further comment I refer you to my earlier post


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