CPR Dolls’ Face Is A Copy From a 19th Century Woman Who Drowned


If there’s something you probably never thought too much about, it’s where they got the face they put on the CPR dummy.

Surprisingly (I thought), the story is a lot more interesting than you might think.

It’s the face of L’Inconnue de la Seine (The Unknown Woman of the Seine), and was borrowed from a 19th century death mask that has fascinated laypeople and scientists alike for centuries.

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Her origins are unknown, but the popular and enduring belief places her as a woman pulled from the Seine in the late 1880s. Her body showed no signs of violence, leading most to believe the young girl (around the age of 16) must have thrown herself into the river of her own accord.

A pathologist at the Paris morgue was reportedly so fascinated with her beautiful, serene expression that he made a wax death mask of it that has stood the test of time.

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Her calm expression charmed more and more people, with Parisians even keeping copies of the mask in their homes. Albert Camus even famously compared her smile to that of the Mona Lisa, and people have long speculated about her life and the circumstances of her death.

The sad, peaceful face has inspired pieces of art, stories, novels, and even fashion as women tried to copy her hair and style.

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When Peter Safar and Asmund Laerdal created the first aid mannequin, Resusci Anne, they chose the drowned woman’s death mask as the doll’s face – making the Unknown Woman of the Seine the “most kissed face” of all time.

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Which is all to say that human beings are exceptionally weird, because we’ve somehow romanticized a woman we know nothing about and never will.

Here’s hoping she wouldn’t have cringed at the thought.