Napoleon’s death mask

Ever since the death of the French Emperor on the island of St Helena on 5 May 1821, Napoleon’s death masks have presented one of the most complex and fascinating mysteries related to the minor Corsican noble who ended up ruling much of Western Europe. Many masks, of differing materials and even what appear to be moulds of different faces, have come up for auction over the years, and historians have very few sound sources to which to refer. Indeed, many of the documents available are in any case incomplete and sometimes biased. This dossier is an attempt to give an honest view of the lie of this particular and complex land.

The "Bertrand" Death mask, Château de Malmaison, photo © Fondation Napoléon / Rebecca Young