By the middle Ages, they became less of a spiritual commodity and simply a way of preserving the physical likeness of the dead. In a time before photography this would be as close to a true resemblance as you might get. The resemblance of the individual was created for more than just memory in some cases. Some were made if the individual was important or was a well known criminal, medical research, and to identify unknown individuals.
Some of the most famous death masks include Beethoven, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ned Kelly, Vladimir Lenin, Issac Newton, Maximilian Robespierre, Burke & Hare and Oliver Cromwell.Oliver Cromwell died in 1658, where a wax impression of his face was taken; he was then buried in Westminster Abbey. When the Royalists returned to power he was exhumed, hung in chains and beheaded! His death mask was then used to make effigies - life size representations which were ceremonially burned or beheaded in protest.
So it is safe to say his mask was not made in loving memory!Tipperary Museum has a copy of Cromwell's Death mask on display. It allows you to look into the face of the man who, 350 years ago laid siege to many towns in Ireland, including Clonmel.
The original wax mask can be view on the British Museum website.