This mask, kept in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, was probably carved in 1483 by Pietro and Tullio Lombardo. In the middle of sixteenth century, the mask was donated to sculptor Giambologna, who then gave it to his scholar Pietro Tacca.
Dante’s death mask became a model of study for young artists.
Dante (whose death mask may not be genuine) served a long course of exile before his demise. Amidst the political turmoil of Florence in the early 1300s, Dante fell out of favor with the ruling political faction known as the Black Guelphs. He was subsequently exiled and it was during this time that he wrote his most famous work, The Divine Comedy. And luckily, Dante was able to complete Paradiso, the last part of the almost 15,000 line epic poem, before he contracted malaria and died in 1320.
Death has been, and may always be, shrouded in a veil of intrigue, fear, curiosity, and calm. Humanity has always revered the passing of a person in myriad ways. But perhaps one of the more intriguing is the preparation and creation of death masks, a final viewing of the deceased. Death masks first gained notoriety in Egypt, the most recognizable belonging to King Tut. The Egyptians believed that the death mask, which would be buried with the individual, would allow the person's spirit to find his/her body in the afterlife. In some African tribes it was believed that death masks could imbue the wearer with the power of the deceased. But in the Middle Ages, they became less of a spiritual commodity and more of a way of preserving the memory of the dead. Death masks were made for a range of famous and notable people and were put on display for many to see. And in a time before photography this could be as close to the real thing as you might get.