Six studies of Napoleon’s Death Mask
  • Richard Müller
  • Tschirnitz / Bohemia 1874 -1954 Dresden
  • Six studies of Napoleon’s Death Mask, 1906
  • Pencil and charcoal, on paper,
  • inscribed, monogramed and dated lower right:
    Totenmaske Napoleons / R. M. 06-
  • 510 × 388 mm
Corinna Wodarz: Richard Müller, his life and oeuvre,
with a catalogue raisonné of his paintings, drawings and

dissertation University of Göttingen 1999, no. Z1906.28

These studies of Napoleon’s death mask in the military museum in Paris also go far beyond a mere reproduction of the object. Rather, by interleaving the various views of the face, Müller almost brought them back to life and caused them to communicate amongst themselves on the sheet.

Through subtle shading, he furthermore heightened the three-dimensionality and thus the liveliness of the mask. Only the masterful depiction of the plaster seam, particularly in the en face view on the upper right, reminds the viewer of the subject’s transience.

Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 6, 1821, and contemporaries reported unanimously that death gave back a youthful and nearly wrinkle-free countenance to the first consul. The taking of a death mask proved difficult and only succeed days later, after several attempts. By then, the deceased had already been shaved of the hair on his head.