In the wake of Napoleon's death in 1821, a death mask was made with the intention of preserving his memorable features for posterity. But what happened to the famous relic after it graced the walls of various European museums for over 100 years? As it turns out, it ended up right here in New Orleans!
The death mask was gifted to the City by Edgar Degas' cousin, Dr. Achille Degas, and has been housed at The Louisiana State Museum since 1896. It is believed that Napoleon wore this mask as he emerged from exile on Elba in 1815. Made with beeswax and plaster, the lifelike representation of Napoleon's iconic face is full of detail and emotion—his furrowed brow gives away his dedication to achieving greatness on a global scale.
Napoleon's face is immortalized in a death mask containing every detail of his iconic features. It sits upon an elaborate pillow of bronze, bearing the name Dr. Antommarchi, and has been on display at The U.S. Mint this summer as part of the “Treasures of Napoleon” exhibition - an awe-inspiring collection of more than 250 artifacts from Napoleon's reign. On August 3rd, the relic will be returned to its permanent home near the grand stairway at The Cabildo in New Orleans, where it will continue to serve as a reminder of one man's indelible legacy for generations to come!
Known as one of history’s greatest military commanders and statesmen, Napoleon’s extraordinary journey began at an early age when he quickly rose through France’s political ranks. After dominating several wars and establishing a powerful empire across Europe, he eventually met his defeat during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and was exiled to Elba Island shortly afterwards.
Although his rule only lasted around 13 years, its impact can still be felt centuries later. During his reign, Napoleon embodied progressive leadership by introducing numerous modern reforms such as civil rights codes guaranteeing religious freedom or abolishing serfdom throughout most of Europe. He also influenced architecture with his unique style that embraced neoclassicism--which can be seen today in historic monuments like The Arc de Triomphe or The Louvre in Paris.
Napoleon’s death mask serves as a reminder of this tyrant-turned-hero’s significant impact on society. His daring tactics coupled with revolutionary leadership style gave rise to one of history’s greatest empires while leaving an indelible mark on European culture through brilliant military strategy and pioneering reforms that molded modern society into what it is today. Even two centuries later we are reminded that one man can change the world - and this artifact stands testament to that fact!