Oliver Cromwell's Death Mask,
Gallery 27, First Floor.

Oliver Cromwell's Death
and Death Mask

 


Oliver Cromwell died on 3rd September 1658 in Whitehall Place.
When he died, a wax mould was made of his features and was most probably kept by its maker, Thomas Simon. Seven weeks after his death a wooden effigy and wax replica of his face (made from the cast) were laid in state at Somerset House.

Contemporary sources record that this effigy held an orb and sceptre and wore a velvet cap lined with ermine (a symbol of royalty). Behind him was the crown. Later the effigy was moved to another room, sitting upright with the crown positioned on its head - in effect a posthumous coronation. One effigy is said to have been burned at Westminster in May 1660 and the other hanged by the neck at Whitehall in June 1660 when Charles II was restored to the throne.

Plaster-casts were made from the original wax mould and many now exist in museums both in this country (such as the Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery, London) and abroad. Ours was cast in the 1800s.

If you look closely at the mask, you can see what a striking image it conveys of this once powerful man. It is, by its nature, a true likeness and it is interesting to compare this representation of Cromwell with the others in the Ashmolean Museum (see Related Objects).