L'Inconnue de la Seine

“Who was L'Inconnue de la Seine? According to legend, she was a young country girl who committed suicide by throwing herself into the Seine in Paris. She was fished out the river and brought to the morgue where a young doctor, moved by her quiet beauty and enigmatic smile, made a death mask of her face. Some say he was driven mad by love for her and later threw himself into the Seine to finally meet her in its watery embrace. Others say the story is pure myth. L'Inconnue de la Seine was made from the living face of a German mask maker's teenage daughter and he grew rich selling copies of the mask which hung on the walls of every true and would-be European artist and poet at the beginning of the 20th century. No one knows for sure. What is known is that this mask has inspired generations of artists and writers from Rilke to Nabokov to Camus to Man Ray. Personally I think she is a Siren. Look at her image long enough and you will hear her song. I promise it will seduce you.”

This is the blurb I wrote for all my work and photographs featuring the mask L’Inconnue de la Seine. But what is doesn’t tell is how I first came across the mask myself. My own story includes a mystery, an unveiling, a sale, a collection, a camera and endless inspiration. Ever since I’ve found her, L’Inconnue has not let me go.

I’m not alone. L’Inconnue has inspired poetry, music, art and novels written in English, German, Russian and French. Her face is on the first aid mannequin CPR Annie, making it the “most kissed” woman of all time.

My book would feature my own work as well as that of others who have been inspired by the mask. It would be part personal story, part impressive name-dropping and part historical wild-goose chase to find just who this woman might have been.

Any support or feedback is much appreciated.

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