At the end of the 19th century, a young girl’s lifeless body was pulled from the river Seine in Paris near the quai François Mitterrand, which was then called quai du Louvre.
As no signs of violence could be found on her, it was decided she had committed suicide, with some stories suggesting it was a case of unrequited love that prompted her death.
The drowned woman was taken to the Paris Morgue for identification. At that time it was located behind Notre-Dame, where the unknown dead were displayed for the public to see and, it was hoped, identify. The Paris Morgue was a famous institution during its time, and attracted thousands of visitors every day until it closed in 1907. Whether the unknown young woman was publicly exhibited at the morgue is not part of the story, however it was said that her smile was so compelling to a medical assistant at the morgue that he took an impression of her face, and the great numbers of plaster casts produced and sold came from this unknown young woman’s death mask.