From the moment I was able to understand the term ‘death’ up to now, I was always appalled and frightened every time I just heard the word. The cause of me to react like that is probably the death of my grandmother when I was six years old. My grandmother and I always had a special relationship. Maybe it was because I was the oldest son of her youngest son, or maybe it was because she knew how long she would be with us in this world. Who knows? All I know is that although I was only six years old, I knew what was going on when I was at her funeral with my parents and other family members. My beloved grandmother was no longer with us. Of course there were many more funerals I had to attend in the past several years, but I’m sure the death of my grandmother left me the trauma I still have today, or I should say the trauma I used to have.
After reading Fidler’s Impressions From the Face of a Corpse, I learned a few positive things about death to help overcome my fear. In his essay, Fidler asserts that “the death mask is something between a creepy portrait and a contact relic,” that “it’s an uncanny object, one that spurs us to reconsider the matter of portraiture and commemoration. To ask why or how a death mask works is to probe a maelstrom that makes mock of sure footing. But what if the thing that makes a death mask tick is not the resemblance to someone long-dead, but rather the visual noise, static, and imperfections that halt that resemblance in its tracks?”
Even to this point, I didn’t have a complete understanding of what the quote meant. However, after reading that “phrenologists sought them out as teaching tools, and taught students to read worlds into the bumps and grooves of cheekbones and foreheads,” and “artists incorporated death masks into commemorative busts, such as that made of Napoleon I by Francois Carlo Antommarchi,” along with what was revealed within Napoleon’s and Beethoven’s masks in the following paragraphs, I had a better understanding. Not only was I fascinated at the fact that we humans have advanced so much in coming up with these theories and ideas, and even went beyond science in order to learn more about the kind of people who are long-dead are, but also had a better understanding of the different perspectives from different societies, and the different purposes of the masks. I learned that death masks aren’t just commemorative items, nor are they unwanted reminders of grotesque things that we don’t want to remember, but they are some kind of portal that leads us to a better understanding, a clearer knowledge of the person, who the mask belongs to.