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This captivating bronze death mask of the Emperor Napoleon I is cast from the mold created by Dr. Francesco Antommarchi ...
moreThis captivating bronze death mask of the Emperor Napoleon I is cast from the mold created by Dr. Francesco Antommarchi, Napoleon’s personal physician and companion during the last two years of his life. Cast by the French firm of L. Richard et Quesnel, this mask is one of the few French bronze masks created at Dr. Antommarchi’s request.
One of the most intriguing reliquary objects in history, the story of the cast remains one of great fascination. Taken one and a half days after the deposed emperor’s death on the island of St. Helena on May 5, 1821, there remains some dispute about who took the original "parent cast" of the deposed emperor. It is now believed that the first mold was cast, not by Dr. Antommarchi, but by Dr. Francis Burton of Britain’s 66th Regiment, stationed at St. Helena. Dr. Burton took the mold on May 7th, after gathering the materials to mix a rudimentary plaster-of-Paris. After setting it to dry, he reluctantly entrusted it to a Madame Bertrand, who had been a member of Napoleon’s court and shared his exile, for safekeeping until it was dry enough to pack away. Unfortunately, Madame Bertrand must have had no intention of giving this precious item up, and removed all but the back third part of the mask before returning to France with her husband. Burton himself has even stated that Bertrand took the mask without his knowledge or consent. In fact, upon his return to England, he attempted to sue her for the return of the mask, but to no avail.
Madame Bertrand is believed to have given the mask to Dr. Antommarchi, who then had bronze and plaster casts made of it while he resided in France. This task was undertaken by the firm of Richard et Quesnel. Founded in 1826 by Louis-Marie Richard and engraver Edouard Quesnel, this foundry specialized in bronze works.
Today, several of these casts, both bronze and plaster, reside in museums throughout the world. The most famous is housed in the Cabildo of the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. It was carried here by Dr. Antommarchi himself in 1834, upon his immigration to the city. Removed from the Cabildo in 1853, the mask disappeared in the confusion of the Civil War, only to be spotted in a garbage cart by a former city official in 1866. From there, it traveled to Atlanta and returned to New Orleans, and the Louisiana State Museum, in 1909. less
- 8.5ʺW × 14ʺD × 9.5ʺH
- Early 19th Century
- Item Type
- Vintage, Antique or Pre-owned
- Condition Notes
- Good - Moderate wear and tear, but still has good years left Good - Moderate wear and tear, but still has good years left less
- Place of Origin
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