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Biographical/Historical Information

Johannes Urzidil was a German-Bohemian writer, historian, and journalist. Born and educated in Prague, he briefly served in World War I in 1916 before working as a translator at the German Embassy in Prague. He then was a correspondent for the Prague Tagblatt (daily newspaper). Urzidil eventually was appointed as press officer of the Embassy, though he was dismissed in 1933 once the Nazis took power. Along with his wife, Gertrude Thieberger (1898-1977), he escaped to England via Italy and moved to the United States in 1941. He died in Rome in 1970.

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.

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Unknown Artist: Death mask of Johannes Urzidil, Leo Baeck Institute, 78.2800.