© Horace Nicholls / IWM, ca. 1918, WWI soldier facial reconstruction, UK

In London and Paris, professional sculptors were responsible for the provision of cosmetic masks to be worn by soldiers badly disfigured during World War I: their results are recorded in the photographs of British home front photographer Horace Nicholls and in a silent film of Anna Coleman Ladd at work in her American Red Cross studio in Paris.

Both sources document the artistry of prosthetic repair, and Nicholls’ images dramatize the psychological impact of facial mutilation – regarded by many to be the most dehumanizing of injuries. Paradoxically, though, the juxtaposition of human face and portrait mask disturbs the equation of identity and appearance on which traditional portraiture depends. (+)

[ IMAGE SOURCES: 1, 4, 2-3, 5-7 ]

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