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The facial prosthetics of World War I

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Why World War I’s wounded needed a sculptor.

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World War I’s horrors not only resulted in death, but severe disfigurement. When plastic surgeons were unable to heal the wounded, a unique solution came in play: sculpting.
Facial prostheses in World War I were a new solution to a difficult problem, and sculptor and writer Anna Coleman Ladd led these efforts for the American Red Cross in France. She made more than 150 masks for the wounded in an effort to provide some semblance of normalcy after their severe injuries.

These masks were made by making casts of the wounded faces, and then sculpting restored faces from that. Those sculptures were then used as a cast for thin copper-plated attachments, which were then attached to the wounded soldier’s face and painted. Though the process wasn’t restorative, it did provide some comfort to the wounded.

That experience shaped Anna Coleman Ladd’s art as well. When she returned to America, she was willing to depict the horrors of war in her War Memorial, as well as the possibility for a new and better day ahead.

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Date: January 29, 2020

37 thoughts on “The facial prosthetics of World War I

  1. It's scary to think that plastic surgery started here. I'm personally SO thankful for it. I was mauled by a German shepherd when I was 5 years old. 37 stitches on my face just under my eye and my ear reattached. You almost can't tell!

  2. When I was a very young child, I heard about the horrors of the Great War, I was ill for a week or more, I had never known death on such a scale. I recall crying on and off for a week or more; my parents were so concerned about me. Those events still affect me to this day. When I was at an age to understand what had happened, my parents told me that many of my family members fought and died in the Great War. It is hard to imagine what happened all those years ago, I feel a great sadness deep inside me.

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