No one knew her identify. We all know nothing about her age or background or how her life introduced her to Paris and left her drowned within the River Seine.
However when her lifeless physique was pulled from these murky waters within the late nineteenth century, the woman identified forevermore as L’Inconnue de la Seine (The Unknown Girl of the Seine) started an incredible new story in demise.
This unusual second chapter, a surreal postscript no person may have ever predicted, in the end helped save tens of millions of lives, even after her personal was reduce so tragically quick.
Or was it?
The precise historical past of what occurred to L’Inconnue each earlier than and after her fateful drowning is a matter of some debate – one shrouded in a frayed, fanciful Parisian legend.
However what follows is essentially the most generally instructed model of a story that is now maybe 150 years outdated.
L’Inconnue, who’s estimated to have been about 16 years outdated when she died, might have been a suicide. No one is aware of for certain, however there have been no marks on her physique, and lots of concluded she took her personal life.
After she was pulled out of the Seine, she was transported to the Paris mortuary and placed on public show alongside the our bodies of different unknown lifeless for the aim of identification.
This grisly parade of anonymous corpses was a preferred diversion in its day.
“There’s not a single window in Paris that draws extra onlookers than this,” a recent account explains.
Regardless of the crowds, nonetheless, no person acknowledged L’Inconnue, or at the very least none got here ahead.
However whereas she might by no means have been recognized by the crowds who attended her corpse, that is to not say she went unnoticed.
Even in demise, her serene look turned heads. A kind of heads belonged to an attendant on the mortuary, who – so the story goes – was so transfixed by her, he ordered a plaster solid to be product of her face.
The masks was a success.
Earlier than lengthy, L’Inconnue’s alluring, deathly likeness was reproduced in facsimiles offered in memento outlets throughout Paris, then Germany, and the remainder of Europe.
The mesmerizing masks of this unknown lifeless woman – described by thinker and creator Albert Camus because the “drowned Mona Lisa” – turned a coveted cultural icon.
In time, L’Inconnue’s frozen half-smile rested on mantels and hung in drawing rooms everywhere in the continent. She was positioned in artists’ workshops, gazed upon as a mute, immobile mannequin.
But it surely wasn’t simply sketchers and painters who had been captivated. Poets and novelists turned entranced too.
Sooner or later, L’Inconnue become a sort of morbid meme for early Twentieth-century writers, who contrived numerous dramatic histories for this heartbroken heroine, engulfed by ailing fortune and the burden of water.
“The information had been so scarce that each author may mission what they wished on to that easy face,” museum archivist Hélène Pinet instructed The Guardian in 2007.
“Demise in water was a really romantic idea. Demise, water, and lady was a tantalizing mixture.”
One critic described her as “the erotic supreme of the interval”, the aesthetic template for a “entire technology of German women [who] modeled their appears on her”.
Half a century after this explosion of fame and fascination was lit, L’Inconnue remodeled into one thing else once more – with the assistance of a person who was born a long time after she died.
His identify was Asmund Laerdal, and he was a toy producer from Norway. His firm had began off within the early Nineteen Forties printing kids’s books and calendars earlier than transferring on to small toys made out of wooden.
After the warfare, Laerdal started to experiment with a brand new sort of materials that had simply entered mass manufacturing: plastic.
Utilizing this delicate, malleable substance, he manufactured one in all his most well-known playthings: the ‘Anne’ doll, which in post-war Norway was acclaimed “toy of the yr… with sleeping eyes and pure hair”.
She might need been sleeping, however Anne wasn’t L’Inconnue. A minimum of, not but.
In the future, Laerdal’s two-year-old son, Tore, practically drowned. Had his father not rushed to intervene – pulling the limp boy from the water and forcing the water out of his airways – issues would have turned out very in a different way.
So when a bunch of anaesthesiologists approached Laerdal and instructed him they wanted a doll to reveal a newly developed resuscitation approach – a process known as CPR – they discovered an attentive, receptive listener.
With these researchers – together with, most notably, the Austrian doctor Peter Safar, who had helped pioneer the CPR technique – Laerdal embarked upon a history-making mission: making a life-sized model that folks may use to apply life-saving strategies.
For a toymaker accustomed to manufacturing miniature automobiles and play-dolls, it was a problem to make a sensible, practical model, one that might reliably reveal the bodily complexities of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Other than the technical points, what sort of face would he give to this large doll?
That is when Laerdal recalled an odd, enigmatic half-smile. A serene masks he’d seen hanging on the wall at his in-laws’ home.
It was, after all, L’Inconnue.
Laerdal saved the identify of his Anne doll however gave the brand new model L’Inconnue’s face, together with a physique of full-sized grownup dimensions – together with a collapsible chest for working towards compressions and open lips to simulate mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Laerdal felt it was vital that the model must be a feminine, suspecting that males within the Nineteen Sixties can be reluctant to apply CPR on a male doll’s lips.
The model was given the identify Resusci Anne (Rescue Anne); in America, she was often known as CPR Annie.
Since she turned obtainable within the Nineteen Sixties, Resusci Anne hasn’t been the one CPR model available on the market, however she is taken into account the primary and most profitable ‘affected person simulator’ ever – chargeable for serving to a whole lot of tens of millions of individuals be taught the fundamentals of find out how to save a life with CPR.
That unbelievable quantity, amassed over virtually 60 years of live-giving mouth to mouth, is why Resusci Anne is commonly mentioned to have the most-kissed face of anybody in historical past.
Satirically, most of those rescues had been the eventual results of individuals kneeling down and coming head to head with the duplicate of an unknown lifeless woman from Paris – a Jane Doe who perished lengthy earlier than the approach may ever have saved her.
“The affect of this model has been huge,” says pediatric intensive care specialist Marino Festa from the Youngsters’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney. “It’s the face of simulation in healthcare – as championed initially by Laerdal.”
In accordance with Festa, Resusci Anne’s incorporation of life-like facial options helped enhance the realism of resuscitation coaching, making CPR coaching extra intense and worrying for each clinicians and lay individuals – but in addition extra memorable in consequence, which aids recall of the approach.
“Simulation coaching has begun to grasp ‘needed realism’ to create memorable studying that’s transferable to the real-world scenario,” Festa instructed ScienceAlert.
“Resusci Anne helped us perceive this.”
With time, the resuscitation duplicate turned well-known herself – individually from L’Inconnue and the bygone developments of late nineteenth century Paris.
The lyric “Annie, are you OK?” from the Michael Jackson tune “Clean Prison” truly stems from American CPR coaching, during which college students apply chatting with their unresponsive plastic affected person, CPR Annie.
In the present day, nonetheless, many doubt that the flawless options of L’Inconnue’s masks may have ever come from a drowned woman – with skeptics suggesting that the face of a corpse, particularly one retrieved from a river, can be misshapen, bloated, or scarred.
Some say the masks we all know might have as a substitute been taken of a reside mannequin posing for a molder – an attractive face who later turned one way or the other swept up in one other woman’s legend.
For individuals who have independently studied L’Inconnue’s historical past – comparable to pediatrician and educator Megan Phelps from the College of Sydney’s College of Medication, who traveled to Paris as a part of her analysis – the richness of the thriller is its personal reward.
“The challenges of studying extra about her story and her affect as a cultural icon have given her much more significance for me,” Phelps instructed ScienceAlert.
“She has been an enigmatic determine for me, and I’ve completely loved the figurative and literal journeys on which she has taken me.”
Others supply an alternate chain of occasions for the way the well-known masks got here to be.
Maybe the lifeless woman was certainly the unique foundation of the masks, however the options had been deliberately molded right into a extra aesthetically pleasing visage after the imprint was taken – in order to disguise the blemish of drowning and demise.
There may additionally be a hybrid chance someplace within the center: L’Inconnue posed for the molder when she was alive and solely later drowned herself – at which level the masks turned well-known, and a legend grew round it.
All these hypothetical eventualities have been advised, however we’ll possible by no means know the one true story.
L’Inconnue’s stays are thought to have been disposed of in an unmarked pauper’s grave, and police data from the period make no point out of this mysterious woman.
“I do not assume we’ll ever know who the younger lady was,” Phelps says. “I believe she was an artist’s mannequin, and her picture [was] used to create a masks for use for drawing copying apply.”
However whereas the morbid delusion supplies an undeniably intriguing, fascinating story we inform ourselves, maybe it not actually issues whether or not we remedy the thriller.
Whoever this face as soon as belonged to within the nineteenth century, the final word story of L’Inconnue and Resusci Anne is one thing that transcends anybody individual: a face that turned a masks that embodied a perfect of magnificence for generations.
Solely then, it turned one thing even higher nonetheless: the literal face of a life-saving approach that prevented tens of millions extra from dying earlier than their time.
How a lifeless woman pulled from a river (or not) achieved such spectacular feats from past the grave is one other enduring puzzle. However the clues are plain to see.
There, within the nonetheless calmness of her face, one thing indefinable, drawing us to her all alongside, inviting us to wake her up, to revive her, to attempt to save her.
As Chief Brigadier Pascal Jacquin of the Paris river police told the BBC in 2013: “She appears like she’s simply asleep and ready for Prince Charming.”
A model of this text was first revealed in October 2018.