From Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and Greek Heroes to Beethoven and groupies, the history of body molding is full of idolization.
Rooted in the idealization of the dead, ancient Egyptians believed in the preservation of the body through mummification. In order for the departed soul to return to its body, it needed to recognize itself, so the Egyptians created a mask of the deceased’s face. Though the early masks weren’t molded from the faces themselves—the mummification process preserved the features of the deceased—the masks were molded over the mummified faces and painted to the likeness of the deceased. In reality, the images painted were exaggerated features of the dead in order to elevate them to the level of gods. These masks, originally made from wood, were most commonly made from cartonnage; a linen or papyrus soaked in plaster and then molded on wood. For royalty, however, the death masks were created from gold or gold leaves on bronze and decorated with the semi-precious stone, lapis lazuli.