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One way to honour greatness during the nineteenth century was to take a plaster cast of the face after death. Turner’s mask is attributed to the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, a great admirer and collector of the older artist’s works. Woolner often used death masks as the basis for portrait busts of his subjects and he probably intended to create a posthumous tribute to Turner. He did the same for a number of other Victorian luminaries, including the writer, Charles Dickens.

February 2010