Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The so Called Handel Life Mask

Photographic Comparisons of the so called Life Mask with other versions of the Plaster Busts of Handel.
The Earliest mention we have of a life (or death mask) appeared in the weekly magazine The Mirror of Possibly the ‘remarkable fine bust of [Handel], exquisitely modell’d by Roubiliac’ in a sale of 1766.

Much has been made of this and other versions of the "life masks", particularly by David Wilson in the British Arts Journal, Vol. X no. 1; David Coke in the Sculpture Journal, Vol.16.2; and at the Ruth Rendall unveiling at the Handel House at 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London in 2009 and subsequent Handel House publications.

My own belief is that none of these authors have had the opportunity to inspect the other busts (the Grimsthorpe terracotta or the Gloucester Cathedral plaster at close quarters and to make the comparisons and that the so called "Life mask" is a cast of a version of the bareheaded and late generation much over painted Roubiliac bust of Handel.

 The three quarter life size plaster bust of Handel now with the Handel Haus Museum in Halle, Germany compared with a plaster mask .
The illustration of the mask on the cover of the Sculpture Journal above was reproduced the wrong way around
Another comparison photograph of the three quarter life size bust at Halle with  another of the so called life masks. The photograph on the left is of the so called life mask of Handel as used in the Exhibition catalogue Handel, A Celebration of his life and Times, 1685 - 1759, ed. Jacob Simon. NPG, 1986.
Photograph of the so called life mask of Handel taken at the Handel House Museum in London in 2009
As above.
Above the Gloucester Cathedral Plaster bust of Handel, on the left compared with the so called life mask. This to me is obvious proof that the "life mask" has been taken from a much over painted plaster cast of the bust of Handel. It is plain to see that the "life mask" has lost the definition that is easily discernible on the Gloucester Cathedral Plaster.
If it were a life mask the eyes hair and eyebrows would have to have been reworked after a mould was taken of the sitters face
Were it really a life mask, even with the obvious over painting, which this mask has undergone, the detailing of the facial features would be much clearer. The detail of the hair on these two faces is obviously very close as are the eyes and eyebrows.
There would also be deterioration of the plaster piece mould after each pull. It is difficult to be sure how many times a piece mould could be used - probably less than twenty.
Since the first mention of any life or death mask was in the Mirror of 19 July 1834 it is my belief that this mask was produced deliberately to deceive the gullible with the intention of parting them with their money - this seems to have worked up until now.
I would welcome any comments.
Above The Handel House Mask compared with the Grimsthorpe terracotta. 
Handel House Mask 
 Another Photograph of the Handel House Mask
Photograph from the National Portrait Gallery of the so called life mask of Handel as used in the Exhibition catalogue Handel, A Celebration of his life and Times, 1685 -1759, ed. Jacob Simon. NPG, 1986.
My favourite photograph of a so called life mask (with David Coke from the Times 26 June 1992).