Isaac Newton, d. 1727

Craig Davies for Art-Sheep

What exactly are death masks and why the heck they are so creepy? We’re pretty much wondering that ourselves and we can’t but share your confusion.

After a short search -and by short search we mean Wikipedia, a death mask is a creepy memento made out of wax or plaster created as effigy of deceased people, a custom that dates back to ancient Egypt. It was also used as a permanent record kept of unknown corpses until its later replacement by photography and since it was popular for centuries, some of the most famous people in history have one.

Taken from the Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks, located at the Manuscripts Division of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library, here are some images of famous death masks -still sounds creepy by the way, depicting famous people of history, from Abraham Lincoln to Leo Tolstoy.

Images via


Elizabeth I, d. 1603
Oliver Cromwell, d. 1658
Jonathan Swift, d. 1745

Laurence Sterne, d. 1768

Benjamin Franklin, d. 1790

Edmund Burke, d. 1797

George Washington, d. 1799

Thomas Paine, d. 1809

John Keats, d. 1821

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, d. 1832

Jeremy Bentham, d. 1832

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, d. 1834

Aaron Burr, d. 1836

Abraham Lincoln, d. 1865

Robert E. Lee, d. 1870

Ulysses S. Grant, d. 1885

Franz Liszt, d. 1886

Walt Whitman, d. 1892

Leo Tolstoy, d. 1910