Marie Grosholtz was saved from execution during the French Revolution in return for agreeing to make Death Masks of famous people after they had been beheaded.
Much later, as Madame Tussaud, she became famous too for her waxworks. Her mother was chambermaid in the home of Philippe Curtuis, a Swiss doctor famed for his death masks and waxwork portraits.
Death masks are known to have been made in Ancient Egypt, but came into their modern form during the Middle Ages, when members of royalty, the nobility and eminent persons such as philosophers, musicians and authors had casts taken of their heads shortly after death. The masks could be put on display as a memento (especially in the days before photography) and might also serve as the basis for a future sculpture.
Marie Tussaud’s masks from the scaffolds have recently been used with 3-D imagery to help reconstitute the face of Robespierre, the infamous Revolutionary leader. Philippe Froesch combined his expertise in facial reconstruction with the detailed information from the death mask to produce a likeness far harsher than contemporary portraits.