A couple of years ago I bought this ceramic face. I was attracted to her serene chalky whiteness, her expression and . . . well you can see her, she's just bloomin' lovely.
Sometimes I research things I buy if I think they're interesting: but I didn't know where to start with this one, apart from maybe googling 'nice ladies face'. Luckily the answer came to me just a little while after I'd bought her. I read it in an article - she is the Girl from the Seine . . .
In 1880s Paris she was pulled from the River Seine, no one could identify her, there was no sign of the cause of death, no wounds or bruising so it was concluded she committed suicide.
There were many bodies found in the river in that period of time and apparently there was a sort of identification parade behind the Notre Dame: the corpses would be displayed and Sunday strollers would pass by and see if they could help identify them . . . or rather they would just have a good oggle. Apparently her beauty and serene smile struck a chord with her audience but still no one came forward who knew who she was. A pathologist at the morgue made a death mask of her and she was marked down as an unidentified female body. They gave up on her ever being identified, and indeed she never has been.
But by 1900 she had become a very recognisable face: plaster copies of her death mask hung on walls throughout Paris and beyond. She was an inspiration to artists and writers, even her hair was copied by fashionable young women of the time. The mystery of why she committed suicide fuelled the fascination, as did her enigmatic smile - which I would deem akin to that other beatific babe - the Mona Lisa.
And if you have a funny feeling that you recognise her it's probably because in recent years her face has been used for Resusci Annie dolls. Sure, the dolls don't quite capture the beatific smile and the hair style has been brought bang up to date but you can see the likeness.
(Photo taken by that Ali Winstanley creature)
What a bizarre and sad story, that an unknown girl who drowned over a hundred years ago should be elevated to the position of artists muse and finally spend her days being repeatedly resuscitated.