M’Kinley Death Mask
HOW THE SCULPTOR MADE AND PREPARED IT FOR EXHIBITION.
He Followed the Most Improved Methods Known to Modern Art in This
Form of Portraiture.
RESEMBLANCE TO NAPOLEON
MASK WILL BELONG TO GOVERNMENT AND BE PLACED IN MUSEUM.
A Diagram of Its Facial Angles and Proportions Wisely Made for Information
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27.—The McKinley
death mask, which has just been deposited in the United States National
Museum for safe-keeping, is quite the most artistic cast of the
kind ever molded upon the features of a public man. Many who have
had the privilege of viewing it have remarked upon the striking
resemblance between its features and those chiseled upon the face
of the statue of Napoleon adorning the Corcoran Art Gallery.
Immediately upon learning of President
McKinley’s death on Saturday, Sept. 14, Mr. E. L. A. Pausch, a New
York scluptor [sic], telegraphed Secretary Cortelyou for
permission to perpetuate the face of the Nation’s beloved martyr
in plaster. Mr. Pausch being the first sculptor to make the proposition,
his request was immediately granted over the wire. Packing his appliances,
he took the next train for Buffalo, arriving there at 9 p. m. the
day of the President’s death. He made the mask at the Milburn residence
at 7 o’clock next morning, the President having been dead twenty-nine
hours. The negative cast was removed the same morning, the positive
was immediately molded from it and the finished product was locked
carefully away in a safe deposit vault in Buffalo. No photographs
of it were allowed. On Tuesday Mr. Pausch personally delivered it
to Secretary Cortelyou at the White House. Bearing a note dictated
by Mr. Cortelyou, the sculptor delivered his work at the office
of Secretary Langley, of the Smithsonian Institution at 6 p. m.
the same day.
The head is slightly inclined forward,
as if reposing upon a pillow. Framing the face and forehead, but
exposing part of the throat, is the cast of a molded drapery, the
texture and even the embroidery of which are most skillfully reproduced.
The left ear is entirely exposed, but only the lobe of the right
ear is visible.
A number of the dead President’s own
hairs adhere to the right temple of the cast. One of his eyelashes
rests upon the right check.
The features are expressively calm
and peaceful. The prominent brow is smooth and furrowless. Two irregular
vertical lines between the bushy brows are the only relics of care
imprinted above the features proper. The closed eyelids, with their
long lashes, bear the soft imprint of spirituality. The cheeks,
more sunken than in life, but less so than during the lying-in state
[sic] in the rotunda of the Capitol, bear the saddest reminder
of the nation’s tragedy and the hellish accomplishment of anarchy.
The traces of a peaceful, benevolent smile remain about the lips
and above the prominent, dimpled chin.
The sharp, Napoleonic profile is the
most striking view which can be obtained. As the sun changes, the
shadows playing over the magnificent features bring out the beauty
of expression when the view is full-face or three-quarters.
The cast rests upon a purple cushion
of richest velvet, upholstered to the ebony base of the containing
case. The sides and top of the latter are of beveled plate glass,
a half inch thick, and are secured together by nickel bolts.
THE MOLD DESTROYED.
This cast is the only
one taken from the mold made upon the dead President’s face. The
mold was destroyed in Buffalo.
As an aid to sculptors designing the
hundreds of McKinley statues to be erected in the new and old world,
Mr. Pausch has compiled a detailed chart giving all of the angles
of the profile, its exact measurements from the center line, the
perpendicular and horizontal measurements of the full face. These
data were obtained by applying calipers to the mask. They will make
it unnecessary to remove the case from the cast and expose it to
injury incidental to future measurements. Sculptors who use this
chart as a basis for future work will, of course, give greater rotundity
to their sketches of the face, if their purpose be to portray the
dead President as he appeared in the vigor of life. Such alterations
will probably be based upon the numerous photographs of President
McKinley. But, as a matter of fact, the late President was too sensitive
to the camera to ever obtain a perfect photographic likeness. A
Washington photographer, who perhaps took more pictures of Mr. McKinley
than anyone else, tells the writer that he was the most difficult
to pose of all public men with whom he had had experience.
The McKinley death mask was made by
application of the most modern methods known to the sculptor’s art.
The features of the dead magistrate were carefully greased, this
treatment extending to all parts of the head selected for reproduction.
What is known to sculptors as a “dam” was then made by draping an
embroidered towel about the forehead and face. The ends of this
were crossed beneath the throat. Plaster paris, mixed to almost
liquid form, was then applied directly to the face with a spoon.
Colored plaster was first poured on, merely enough to supply a thin
film. The cavities of the eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears were then
covered with the first coating of white plaster. This was to avoid
the possibility of an entrance of air beneath the mold. The entire
features were next covered with a coating of the white material.
Within a half hour after the wet mold was put on it had hardened
sufficiently for removal. When taken off it bore intaglio every
line, angle and curve of the original features.
MAKING THE CAST.
Thus was obtained the
mold or negative from which the mask proper was cast. This mold
having thoroughly hardened, the purest of white plaster paris was
poured into it and allowed to solidify and settle. The mold now
had to be chiseled away, piece by piece, and here is seen the purpose
of the film of colored plaster next the face. Hours and hours of
delicate chiseling gradually exposed this stratum, immediately beneath
which the outer layer of the positive was known to rest. All of
the colored stratum having been exposed, even more tedious and delicate
work was required to remove it, particle by particle, so as to leave
the outmost atoms of the relief cast—the death mask described.
This death mask of President McKinley
is not as yet the property of the Nation. It is technically entered
upon the books of the National Museum as a loan. It is still the
property of the sculptor. But at an early date Congress is expected
to pass a bill appropriating for it, as well as for the expense
incidental to the President’s illness and burial. What price is
asked by Mr. Pausch is as yet unknown.
Two masks of the face of President
Lincoln are installed in the National Museum. Both of these, however,
were made before the Nation’s first martyr was assassinated.
The first Lincoln mask was made at
Chicago in 1860 by the sculptor, Leonard W. Volk. Mr. Lincoln was
then without a beard. The same sculptor made, at Springfield, Ill.,
on the Sunday following Mr. Lincoln’s nomination for the presidency,
casts of his hands, in one of which he is clutching a rod. The first
bronze casts from these molds were presented to the government by
thirty-three subscribers, including John Hay, George W. Childs and
Richard Watson Gilder. Plaster casts from the same were deposited
in the National Museum.
Sixty days before President Lincoln’s
death Clark Mills, the Washington sculptor, made a second life mask
of the great American. This is installed in the same case which
displays those made by Mr. Volk. The Mills mask perpetuates Mr.
Lincoln as best remembered. He wears the familiar chin whiskers.
Every line of the broad, irregular nose, the high cheek bones, the
cadaverous cheeks, the deep-set, prominent ears and the thick underlip
of the civil-war President is traced upon the plaster of this cast.
These Lincoln masks are monuments
to Mr. Lincoln’s good nature, in more ways than one. It was certainly
no trifling ordeal for him to lie supine for a long interval bearing
upon his head not only the cares of state, but several pounds of
wet plaster, breathing the while through quills penetrating to his
nostrils through the ill-smelling, sticky poultice.
The only relics of martyred Presidents
which the National Museum has upon exhibition are the clothes which
Mr. Lincoln wore at the time of his assassination, the pall which
covered his bier while he lay here in state and the flag which draped
the Garfield funeral car. The first mentioned consists of a waistcoat
of black silk, a black bow and stock of the same material a frock
coat and trousers of black broadcloth [sic]. This apparel
was worn by President Lincoln as an office suit.
The Lincoln pall is of the heaviest
black broadcloth. When brought to the National Museum it was fairly
alive with moths and fell into a hundred pieces when shaken. The
flag from President Garfield’s funeral car is well preserved.