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.


About versaillesgossip, before and after Francis Ponge

The author of the blogs Versailles Gossip and Before and After Francis Ponge, Vadim Bystritski lives and teaches in Brest France. The the three main themes of his literary endeavours are humor, the French Prose Poetry, the French XVII and XVIII Century Art and History. His writings and occasionally art has been published in a number of ezines (Eratio, Out of Nothing, Scars TV, etc). He also contributes to Pinterest where he comments on the artifiacts from the Louvre and other collections. Some of his shorter texts are in Spanish, Russian and French.
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