The Amazing Legacy of the Unknown Woman of the Seine
The face of an unknown young woman who drowned in the Seine River would go on to be famous.
According to a Parisian legend, sometime in the late 19th century, the dead body of a young woman was pulled out of the Seine River. No one knew who she was, so the Paris mortuary put her on public display, hoping that someone would identify her. No one came forward and to this day, her identity remains a mystery. However, an attendant at the mortuary found her peaceful half-smile so beautiful that he had a death mask made from her face. This is how L’Inconnue de la Seine (The Unknown Woman of the Seine) was born.
The face of L’Inconnue may have started as a plaster cast, but it quickly spread from the mortuary to nearby souvenir shops. From there, casts of her gently smiling face spread across Europe and inspired painters, poets, and novelists. Images of L’Inconnue’s face appeared on the walls of upper and middle class homes as a must-have decoration.
Since then, the girl called “the Mona Lisa of Paris” has been brought back to life time and again.