Skip to contentSkip to navigation

Jules Desbois

Mask of Death


Jules Desbois
Parçay-les-Pins, France, 1851 – Paris 1935


Mask of Death


About 1890


Enamelled stoneware


30 x 23 x 13.5 cm


Ceramicist: Paul Jeanneney, about 1903


Purchase, the Museum Campaign 1988-1993 Fund, inv. 2011.202


Western Art

Masks were a favourite sculptural motif during the Symbolist period in art. An integral part of late nineteenth century Japonisme and the death masks of the European secular tradition, masks were exceptionally popular with art lovers. Drawing inspiration from Gothic art and the discovery of Japanese Nō theatre masks, Mask of Death was created by Jeanneney, a ceramicist of the Carriès school, after the face of Misery, sculptor Desbois’s masterpiece. Influenced by Rodin, whose collaborator he became in 1884, Desbois soon inspired his master, who greatly admired his veristic, “expressionist” experiments. At the junction of sculpture and the decorative arts, this mask is emblematic of Symbolism in its expressive power and of Japonisme by reason of its iconography (a mask) and medium (stoneware). It also attests to the desire, characteristic of the Art Nouveau era, to amalgamate all the arts and unite artists and artisans.

Add a touch of culture to your inbox
Subscribe to the Museum newsletter

Bourgie Hall Newsletter sign up