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Wax death mask of Benjamin Disraeli, England, 1881

Taken six hours after he died, this is the wax death mask of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881). Disraeli was Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1868 and again from 1874 until 1880. The making of death masks became popular in the 1800s, but the practice has much older roots. The first masks and effigies made in wax directly from the features of the deceased date from medieval Europe. The process was expensive and only practised on high-ranking members of the royalty and church. These waxes would be suitably robed and paraded during their state funerals. Disraeli refused a public funeral and was buried privately.

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Glossary: death mask

A cast taken of a person's face after death, usually made from plaster or wax.