"In Western cultures, a death mask is a wax or plaster cast made of a person’s face following death. Death masks may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits. It is sometimes possible to identify portraits that have been painted from death masks, because of the characteristic slight distortions of the features caused by the weight of the plaster during the making of the mold. In other cultures a death mask may be a clay or another artifact placed on the face of the deceased before burial rites. The best known of these are the masks used by ancient Egyptians as part of the mummification process, such as Tutankhamon’s burial mask.
In the seventeenth century in some European countries, it was common for death masks to be used as part of the effigy of the deceased, displayed at state funerals. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they were also used to permanently record the features of unknown corpses for purposes of identification. This function was later replaced by photography.Wikipedia." Text and image source from Knowledge Is Power blog. Link here.
Photos, from upper left:
A patinated bronze death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte is on display during a Los Angeles auction preview November 2, 2001 at Butterfileds in Los Angeles, CA.
The golden death mask of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen. 1950.
Two men making a death mask, New York, circa 1908.