John Keats's death mask

The life of John Keats the man: his family, his friends, and his contemporaries.

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John Keats's death mask

Postby Raphael » Wed Nov 04, 2009 7:50 pm

I saw this on the website a couple of days ago and was so shocked to see how ill he looked, and how he had changed. The suffering is etched on his face. Who made the mask and how was it made?
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: John Keats's death mask

Postby BrokenLyre » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:45 pm

According to the standard biographies, they made Keats's death mask soon after he died. It was typical procedure in those days to make death masks of certain people. I could look it up as to who did it, but I don't have the time....I'm supposed to be working! :roll:
"Come... dry your eyes, for you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes... and let's go home."
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Re: John Keats's death mask

Postby Raphael » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:04 pm

Thanks for your reply. I wonder where the mask is kept now.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: John Keats's death mask

Postby Fortuna » Sun Nov 08, 2009 1:25 am

Hi Raphael, my copy of his biography by Andrew Motion states it was taken by "Gherardi" and I think it is located in The Keats and Shelly House in Rome, where he died.
"Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath"
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Re: John Keats's death mask

Postby Raphael » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:09 pm

Thanks Fortuna- I would like to see that house but it would make me very sad...
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: John Keats's death mask

Postby keatsclose » Tue Nov 17, 2009 7:40 pm

Yes, the mask is in what is known as the Keats-Shelley House in Rome. When I was there a couple of years ago I learned that it was sometimes possible to rent accommodation there.
It has its own website and is maintained, I believe, by an American cultural organisation.

A visit is a moving experience, especially as it lies in a bustling part of the city and you emerge with a heavy heart into a sun-filled space packed with carefree-seeming tourists.
How sad to think he had hoped his Rome visit might help to improve his health.

The grave, as you may know, is in the Protestant Cemetery there. It would have been fitting for his remains to have been brought home for burial in Highgate. I imagine it was his tuberculosis that prevented this from happening at the time - and of course the disease, regarded as shameful and associated with the poor, was rampant for several decades after his death. there are some interesting insights into TB in The White Plague, a comprehensive study by Thomas Dorman (name to be checked), published in the 1990s, if anyone is interested.
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Re: John Keats's death mask

Postby keatsclose » Tue Nov 17, 2009 7:49 pm

Sorry: the book is actually The White Death by Thomas Dormandy (1998) and is interesting on the subject of tuberculosis and nineteenth-centry writers.
The White Plague (1987), another book on the subject, which I've not read, is by Rene Dubois..
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Re: John Keats's death mask

Postby Raphael » Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:57 pm

You know what - I don't think he did think that- I think he let his friends think that. But- he knew he was going to die pretty doon and thought it best to go away so Fanny wouldn't have to watch him die. The physical decline poor John had was both harrowing and humiliating so he probably didn't want her to see him like that- the anguish for them both would have been worse then him going to Rome and her being told by Brown he had passed away.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: John Keats's death mask

Postby keatsclose » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:40 pm

Yes, that was probably the case - and I suspect his friends may not have realised how very ill he was.
Perhaps he wanted to find, before he left the world, that 'sunburnt mirth' and the 'beaker full of the warm South'
mentioned in the Ode to a Nightingale.
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Re: John Keats's death mask

Postby Raphael » Fri Nov 20, 2009 4:54 pm

keatsclose wrote:Yes, that was probably the case - and I suspect his friends may not have realised how very ill he was.
Perhaps he wanted to find, before he left the world, that 'sunburnt mirth' and the 'beaker full of the warm South'
mentioned in the Ode to a Nightingale.


I think some of them did but didn't want to even think about it- I mean losing someone like him would have been an unbearable thought wouldn't it. I think he would have enjoyed Italy if he hadn't been in the last days of his life there.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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