Beautiful Death Mask

Information time! Did you know that the face of all CPR dummies (or at least all the ones I’ve seen) are based on an unidentified dead woman?

L’Inconnue de la Seine (The Unknown Woman of the Seine), also known as La Bella Italienne in the United States, was a young woman pulled from the River Seine in France in the 1880s. It’s assumed that she committed suicide by drowning herself due to the lack of evidence of violence. The body was somehow incredibly well-preserved despite being pulled from water.

Origin stories very, but most of them say that mortuary attendant fell in love with her face. He created a death mask (a wax replica of a dead person’s face) of her face and everyone began to fall in love with her beauty.

After that, the woman’s face was everywhere—almost literally. Copies of her death mask were produced and became fashionable décor. She inspired poets and writers as a tragic, beautiful muse and there’s even been a ballet performance based on her. Even the German fashion industry turned to her as girls tried to replicate her looks.

In 1960, a Norwegian toy maker was asked to create a CPR doll. Supposedly, his grandparents owned a copy of the famous death mask and he used her likeness for the Resusci Anne. Since then, practically all CPR mannequins use the face of L’Inconnue de la Seine, earning the name “the most kissed face”.

Personally, after cleaning up over 16 mannequin faces, I was skeptical on how beautiful this woman was. I’ve only ever seen the face with a plastic skull behind it or a bad fake wig on top. But, after some research and actually seeing the death masks and a sketch of the woman herself, I must agree that she was pretty. And now you know the history of the face you have to kiss when you do CPR every year.

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