The Death Mask of Robespierre


There are several death masks of Robespierre, all of them fake; the one that can be seen at Tussaud Museum in London is shamelessly so; also various sources mention that Vivant Denon, the first curator of Louvre, possessed such a mask in his private collection; this fact plays its role in lending some authenticity to the apocryphal story that the cast was indeed taken at the cemetery of Madeleine before Maximilian’s body was interred; but the other  fact is they all spin off various busts and portraits made during Robespierre’s life; so, whatever Denon was showing was fake and had one purpose only, to get those gullible ladies to his lonely room.

Perhaps I should not dismiss the real thing’s existence back in the day, for none of the surviving masks can be traced to the creator of the first Universal Museum; nevertheless, what confirms my suspicion is a certain reliquary box that was a part of the freak show that was meant to excite the damsels. The six items we see on display are: the mustache of Henry IV, a piece of the shroud of General Turenne, bones of Molière and la Fontaine, some hair of General Desaix, and finally to get their panties all wrinkled — a tooth of Voltaire!

I applaud the old lecher, his method certainly beats the vulgar idea of getting them drunk at the bar; yet it remains unclear as to the exact purpose of each artifact in Denon’s amorous scheme. What a mystery! The former diplomat was notoriously discrete; to all my questions he would respond with a smirk.

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