L’Inconnue de la Seine (or “the unknown woman of the Seine”) was an unidentified young woman pulled from the Seine River at the Quai du Louvre in Paris in the late 1880s whose death mask became a popular fixture on the walls of artists’ homes after 1900. Her body showed no signs of violence, so suicide was suspected.
A pathologist at the Paris morgue was so taken by her beauty that he had a plaster death mask cast from her face. In the following years, many copies were produced, and the mask became a fixture in the Parisian Bohemian society. Her smile was compared to that of the Mona Lisa. Her identity was never discovered.
The original cast had been photographed, and eventually new casts were created from the film negatives which displayed details usually lost in bodies taken from the water.
L’Inconnue de la Seine became the erotic ideal in Germany, where an entire generation of girls modeled their looks after her until Greta Garbo came around.
The Resusci Anne CPR training mannequin came into use in 1960 in numerous first aid classes with a face molded from the death mask of L’Inconnue de la Seine, so they have come to be known as the most kissed lips.