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Biographical Information

Death masks are casts taken of a person's face following their death. Casts were often made from wax, clay, or plaster and were primarily used to remember the dead. The process has roots in Egyptian mummification and Mycenean Greek traditions. After the middle ages, death masks were made of prominent figures to be saved for display. Later, casts were taken of unknown corpses for future identification. Death masks were eventually replaced by photography.

Ernst Toller was born in Samotschin in 1893. He studied law in Grenoble and volunteered for World War I, but was relieved from his duties because of medical reasons in 1917. He continued his studies in Munich and became friends with Kurt Eisner. After Eisner's death in 1919, Toller became the head of the Unabhängigen Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands (USPD) in Bavaria. In July he was arrested for treason and sentenced to five years in prison. During his imprisonment he wrote several plays and moved to Berlin after his release in 1924. In 1933, he moved to Switzerland and later immigrated to England and the US. He died in 1939.

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Citation

Unknown Artist: Death Mask of Ernst Toller, Leo Baeck Institute Art and Objects Collection, 2001.52.

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