The most kissed girl in the world
August 21, 2007 9:43 AM   Subscribe

In the 1890s, an unknown woman was found drowned in the Seine. Known as the l'Inconnue de la Seine, her death mask became a fixture in the homes of artists and writers, and her look the ideal of the age. Many have speculated on her identity, and she has inspired a long list of artistic works by Nabokov, Rilke, Man Ray, and others. She has since become the "most kissed girl in the world" thanks to the Norwegian toymaker that used her mask to create Resusci Anne, the standard CPR doll.
posted by blahblahblah (56 comments total) 178 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great post. I knew nothing about this!
posted by miss lynnster at 9:46 AM on August 21, 2007


Amazing. And so freakish that the Paris morgue was an "attraction."
posted by exogenous at 9:47 AM on August 21, 2007


This is the more startling thing I have ever read. Seriously. I am completely shaken up that my dearest Anne's face is based on the death mask of a woman drowned in the Seine. Wow.
posted by GuyZero at 9:51 AM on August 21, 2007


Mindblowing. Thanks for this post.
posted by saladin at 9:51 AM on August 21, 2007


What a great piece of (hi)story! Thanks!
posted by freebird at 9:53 AM on August 21, 2007


What everyone else said. Amazing.
posted by jokeefe at 9:54 AM on August 21, 2007


And when I call her "dearest Anne" it's only because of all the time we spent together in lifeguard training, not because I am a crazy person. at least this time
posted by GuyZero at 9:54 AM on August 21, 2007


Weird! Neat find!
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:56 AM on August 21, 2007


In a better-oriented image of Resusci Ann the likeness is...slight might be the best word. Of course the mouth has to be different which negates the smile. But then again, I doubt they are calibrating their machines to get an exact likeness (how creepy would that be?); they probably just used the mask as a starting point.
posted by DU at 9:56 AM on August 21, 2007


I find it more than a bit morbid that the standard CPR doll's face is modeled on the death mask of a drowned person. I won't ever be able to see a CPR doll the same way again.

I want my innocence back, damnit!
posted by splice at 9:57 AM on August 21, 2007


I find it appropriate. Good post, blah.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:59 AM on August 21, 2007


That's pretty wild, I now wish I hadn't just got my recert, I now have to wait a whole two years before I can drop this little pearl of knowledge onto an unsuspecting class RIGHT BEFORE THEY HAVE TO DO THE TEST! try to bring her back to life!
posted by edgeways at 10:01 AM on August 21, 2007


Annie Are You Okay?
So, Annie Are You Okay?
Are You Okay, Annie?
Annie Are You Okay?
So, Annie Are You Okay?
Are You Okay, Annie?
Annie Are You Okay?
So, Annie Are You Okay?
Are You Okay, Annie?
Annie Are You Okay?
So, Annie Are You Okay, Are You Okay, Annie?



You've Been Hit By...
You've Been Struck By...


A Smooth Criminal
posted by exlotuseater at 10:14 AM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh that's just creepy. How can I possibly ever have sex with that doll again?
posted by itchylick at 10:35 AM on August 21, 2007 [15 favorites]


Awesome post, I had no idea about this. Thanks.
posted by biscotti at 10:51 AM on August 21, 2007


Nice - many thanks! There's something satisfyingly Borgesian about this.
posted by carter at 11:08 AM on August 21, 2007


Wow.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:14 AM on August 21, 2007


We're all still trying to save her. One day someone finally will.
posted by hermitosis at 11:17 AM on August 21, 2007 [17 favorites]


I don't know, I think it's pretty brilliant to take the face of a very famous drowned person, and use it as a tool designed to teach people how to save someone from drowning/ asphyxiating.

I like it; it has a nice symmetry.
posted by quin at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2007


I wonder what the availability of the death mask is these days.

Nothing on ebay.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:31 AM on August 21, 2007


I used to teach CPR (for the American Heart Association) and I never knew this. I would definitely have used it, too, had I known!
posted by tommasz at 11:32 AM on August 21, 2007


Wow, I had never heard about this and I'm a huge fan of Man Ray, Paris,etc.
posted by fire&wings at 11:34 AM on August 21, 2007


.
posted by jtron at 11:54 AM on August 21, 2007


Necrophilia?
posted by doctorschlock at 12:10 PM on August 21, 2007


What a strange form of celebrity! Thanks for the excellent post, blahblahblah.
posted by maryh at 1:06 PM on August 21, 2007


Heh, I gave a copy of Das Ewige Antlitz (mentioned in the speculated link), a sumptiously bound edition from the 1930s in gothic font, to a fellow student of mine. We were young and presumptious I guess.
But I never knew the story of the Inconnue de la Seine, or the CPR doll.
I must say I'm quite sceptical about that explanation of her identity. He discovered a picture of her in Brasil while attending a conference on Borges of all people? Yeah right.

Good story.
posted by jouke at 1:11 PM on August 21, 2007


this is a sublime thing, hats off blahblahblah
posted by From Bklyn at 2:20 PM on August 21, 2007


Nifty.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:12 PM on August 21, 2007


It is specially suspicious that he discovered a picture of her in Brasil, while attending a conference in Argentina.
posted by Dataphage at 3:25 PM on August 21, 2007


Amazing. Thanks for the post! Is the current "Annie" doll the same design that was used in the late 70s? She looks a little different from what I remember when we learned CPR in P.E. class in elementary school. I'm glad our teacher didn't know the story of the death mask. That would have totally creeped me out.
posted by amyms at 3:57 PM on August 21, 2007


That is just cool. I wish I could find a copy of that mask.
posted by pywacket at 4:53 PM on August 21, 2007


Also here.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:33 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow. That's unexpected. Great post.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 5:43 PM on August 21, 2007


Totally fascinating story. Great, great post. I hereby cast a vote for sidebarring of this post.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:13 PM on August 21, 2007


Outstanding post. Thank you!
posted by darkstar at 7:08 PM on August 21, 2007


I am going to blow my instructor's MIND in lifeguard class next week. This post is great.
posted by jessamyn at 7:15 PM on August 21, 2007


Related.
posted by Wolof at 7:17 PM on August 21, 2007


the likeness is...slight might be the best word

A better image shows a better resemblance. The one you linked to looks more like a knock-off than the original Anne.
posted by GuyZero at 7:39 PM on August 21, 2007


Oh cool, I just noticed that this post was sideblogged. Excellent choice!
posted by amyms at 8:44 PM on August 21, 2007


I agree with pywacket. Now, where can i find one of those copies?
posted by andythebean at 8:45 PM on August 21, 2007


Nothing on ebay unless you count dozens of Resusci Anne latex faces. Same diff, right?
posted by devetron at 9:08 PM on August 21, 2007


You just missed an eBay auction for a mask ($102), though the seller did not know what it was [Note: some of the other items by that seller are NSFW].

There is a copy of the mask at the Museum of the Order of St John in London as well, according to this article originally published in New Scientist.

Also, thanks for the sidebar! I am honored.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:24 PM on August 21, 2007


I only knew about the Nabokov poem. I had no idea it was this huge sensational cultural thing and a generation's ideal of beauty. Creepy and weird.
posted by dhartung at 10:14 PM on August 21, 2007


It's been bugging me that I read something about l’Inconnue just last week, but can’t now remember what it was… Like most people here, I never knew about her connection with Resusci Anne. Many thanks for the fine post, blahblahblah.
posted by misteraitch at 12:48 AM on August 22, 2007


This is very cool indeed. Thanks for the post! And thanks to whoever side barred it, otherwise I would probably have missed it.
posted by fallenposters at 5:03 AM on August 22, 2007


Another hurrah for Mr. blah. This is so eerie - like meeting a ghost in your everyday life. Thank you.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:52 AM on August 22, 2007


L’Inconnue de la Seine
Vladimir Nabokov

Urging on this life’s denouement,
loving nothing upon this earth,
I keep staring at the white mask
of your lifeless face.

Strings, vibrating and endlessly dying,
with the voice of your beauty call.
Amidst pale crowds of drowned young maidens
you’re the palest and sweetest of all.

In music at least linger with me!
Your lot was chary of bliss.
Oh, reply with posthumous half-smile
of your charmed gypsum lips!

Immobile and convex the eyelids.
Thickly matted the lashes. Reply—
can this be for ever, for ever?
Ah, the way they could glance, those eyes!

Touchingly frail young shoulders,
the black cross of a woolen shawl,
the streetlights, the wind, the night clouds,
the harsh river dappled with dark.

Who was he, I beseech you, tell me,
your mysterious seducer? Was he
some neighbor’s curly-locked nephew
of the loud tie and gold-capped tooth?

Or a client of star-dusted heavens,
friend of bottle, billiards, and dice,
the same sort of accursed man of pleasure
and bankrupt dreamer as I?

And right now, his whole body heaving,
he, like me, on the edge of his bed,
in a black world long empty, sits staring
at a white mask?

—Berlin, 1934
posted by ronv at 8:04 AM on August 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


Prelude To A Kiss

Imitation Of A Kiss
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:20 PM on August 22, 2007


That is so ridiculously neat. She looks beautifully serene. Thanks for the post!
posted by Phire at 8:12 PM on August 22, 2007


We should hook her up with Buster of Mythbuster's fame.
posted by winks007 at 8:21 AM on August 23, 2007


Looking at the picture from the ebay link above I was struck by the notion that this mysterious smile could be the result of her body lying on the back and the facial musculature relaxing or drooping, stretching her mouth in something resembling a smile.
This sunken, facial drooping is something I noticed in a lot of death masks from the book I mentioned, Das Ewige Antlitz.
posted by jouke at 3:04 AM on August 24, 2007


"We should hook her up with Buster of Mythbuster's fame."

They'd make a cute couple, but I thought Buster was already married to Ms. Hybrid III?

I went to Wiki hoping for the name of the person for whom Buster's visage was probably based, but apparently it's just a rough fascimile. There is no story behind Buster's face. However there's a intriguing tale in the history of crash test dummies themselves. Not as cool as CPR Annie's 'life' tho.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:44 PM on August 24, 2007


I wonder if she was an inspiration for Laura Palmer, too. Freaky and cool. Thanks.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:03 AM on August 25, 2007


Now that I think about it, it's really all very Ophelia... y'know?
posted by miss lynnster at 7:36 PM on August 25, 2007


Wow. I wish I'd known about Annie's origin when doing my first aid training--I love weird facts like this!

Great post, blahblahblah.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:43 PM on August 26, 2007


I think it's pretty brilliant to take the face of a very famous drowned person, and use it as a tool designed to teach people how to save someone from drowning/ asphyxiating.

It is brilliant, and I can only speculate as to why I never heard this, either, in the multitude of First Aid/CPR classes I took during my camp counseling days. The Red Cross course is actually a marvel of idiot-proof, formulaic course design, and there's nothing left in or out of it without some instructional designer's careful thought. I wonder if they believe this might freak some students out too much, blowing into the rubberized lips of the death mask of an actual person. It gives me a bit of the willies, I'll admit, and I can still taste that alcohol sanitizer, too. But some students might find this a little bit quease-inducing.

Me, I was fine except when we got to that diagram of how to immobilize swaddle an object impaled in the abdomen.
posted by Miko at 6:25 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


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