Tag Archives: death mask

Death at the Wignacourt: Part II – Cosmana Navarra’s Death Mask

The New Year represents a time for renewal, but we should never forget those whose journey has ended.

Cosmana Navarra, born in in Rabat in the 17th century, was the fourth child of Dr Giovanni Cumbo and Cornelia Navarra, and one of the most important benefactors of the Rabat parish church. Her benevolence can still be felt and seen all around the town of Rabat, particularly at St Paul’s church and in the Wignacourt Museum’s collection.

Well esteemed during her life, this wealthy and business-savvy woman lived to the ripe age of 87 and died on 30 January 1687. She was buried in the small chapel within the Rabat parish church, dedicated to San Anton, but her death mask, created to immortalise her image, remains at the Wignacourt.

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 Death masks were used in the Christian culture in the West from the 1400s onwards, and the process to create them was as interesting, and maybe as macabre, as the item itself. Plaster was applied to the deceased person’s face and, once dried, this said plaster would be used as a cast on which the actual death mask would be moulded. Navarra’s death mask is made from bronze and is on display on the first floor of the museum underneath her portrait and adjacent to the mould used to create it.

Death masks were signs of respect and were made to remind future generations – both of how the person had looked, as well as that they had lead an extraordinary life. Amongst the world’s collection of death masks there is one of Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, and while Cosmana Navarra’s story might have not been as intricate or influential in world politics, she has left an ever-lasting mark on the parish of Rabat.

For more information on the Wignacourt Museum and its artefacts you can contact us on +356 2749 4905 or at info@wignacourtmuseum.com.