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François Antommarchi

Death Mask of Napoleon I


François Antommarchi
Baragona Mursiglia, Corsica, 1789 – Santiago, Cuba, 1838


Death Mask of Napoleon I


After 1833


Patinated bronze


18.5 x 15.5 x 34 cm


Cast L. Richard & Quesnel, Paris


Ben Weider Collection, inv. 2008.416


Western Art

In 1818, when he was only a junior anatomy demonstrator in Florence, the Corsican-born Doctor Francesco Antommarchi was asked by the Bonaparte family to replace Doctor O’Meara as physician to the erstwhile Emperor. When Napoleon died, on May 5, 1821, the doctor took an impression of the dead face, using a mixture of ground minerals. Controversy raged for more than a decade over who made the initial cast. Two doctors claimed to have done so, Antommarchi and the English surgeon Francis Burton, who was on the island. Antommarchi waited until 1833, when his English rival was dead, before authorizing the production and marketing of copies of his death mask. Cast in plaster and in bronze, the Antommarchi mask bears his signature on one side and a small bronze medallion of the Emperor’s head in profile, wearing a laurel wreath, at the front, as in this version.

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