Death mask of Cardinal Tavera

Recorded at the Hospital de Tavera, Toledo, 2019
Facsimile for the Spanish Gallery, Auckland Project, Bishop Auckland, UK

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Death masks are the original facsimiles of the human face, cast directly from their deceased models. More minutely accurate than any painted or sculpted representation, they often in fact provide the basis for posthumous portraits. This was the case of Cardinal Tavera (d. 1545), Archbishop of Toledo and Grand Inquisitor of Spain, whose wax funerary mask was made by the sculptor Alonso Berruguete for use in the creation of the cardinal’s sepulchre, and later used by El Greco among others as a tool for reconstructing his appearance.

Factum Foundation’s facsimile of Tavera’s death mask has been created as part of a collaboration between the Fundación Casa Ducal de Medinaceli and the Auckland Project. It will be exhibited in the new Spanish Gallery at Bishop Auckland, where visitors will be able to see it alongside a portrait of Tavera by El Greco (painted 64 years after the cardinal’s death), and a second portrait by Alonso Berruguete.

In order to make the facsimile, the mask was first recorded using photogrammetry at the Hospital de Tavera in Toledo, where Cardinal Tavera’s tomb had been recorded in 2018. Following processing, the data was rematerialised using 3D printing. The print was then cast in plaster, creating a surface which could be more easily worked on to resemble the original. Shellac and hand painting were used to recreate the appearance of the original wax.

The death mask made by Alonso Berruguete © Factum Foundation

Recording the mask using photogrammetry © Factum Foundation

The first layer of the silicone rubber mould © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

The silicone rubber mould © Otto Lowe for Factum Foundation

Juan Carlos Arias working on the second layer of the silicone rubber mould © Factum Foundation

The silicon mould within the plaster mother mould © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Juan Carlos Arias working on the plaster mother mould © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Casts of the death mask prior to finishing with shellac and polychromy © Factum Foundation

© Factum Foundation

Installed inside In Ictu Oculi - In the Blink of an Eye © Factum Foundation

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