L’Inconnue de la Seine,
The Unknown Woman of the Seine was an unidentified young woman whose body was pulled out of the Seine River in Paris around the late 1880s. A pathologist at the Paris Morgue was so taken by her beauty that he had to make a wax plaster cast of her face. In the following years, numerous copies were produced, her putative death mask became a popular fixture on the walls of artists’ homes after 1900. Her visage inspired numerous literary works.
“The caster I visit every day has two masks hanging next to his door. The face of the young one who drowned, which someone copied in the morgue because it was beautiful, because it was still smiling, because its smile was so deceptive – as though it knew.”
Rainer Maria Rilke: Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (1910)