Ercole Consalvi, Death Mask, 1824
Plaster. 25,9 x 18,4 cm
Inventory number: L659
In Thorvaldsen’s time death and life masks were part of the portrait artist’s working method for capturing the features of his subject. Often Thorvaldsen received his commission posthumously – that is, after the death of the subject – or they could be commissions from far away where artist and subject could not meet. It was Thorvaldsen who took Cardinal Consalvi’s mask, very shortly after the Cardinal had breathed his last. They knew each other from the major work on the tomb of Pope Pius VII for St. Peter’s, and for Thorvaldsen it was certainly no easy task to restrain his feelings and tears during the casting.
Thorvaldsen himself had both a life and a death mask taken, and in his collections there are several masks of famous people.