Anna Coleman Ladd was an American sculptor who moved to France with her husband in 1917. Upon moving to France, she was introduced to Francis Derwent Wood, a sculptor who owned a shop where he helped mask the severely injured faces of wounded soldiers so they could enjoy their life again.
Wood created face masks for soldiers with severe facial disfigurations as a result from fighting in war. Inspired by his work, Ladd created her own shop to do just the same. The shop was officially called the ‘Studio for Portrait-Masks’. Many barely recognizable faces turned up at her studio, and left with a beautiful, new face as if nothing ever happened.
During this time period, men in war were dealing with the psychological stress of being in public with such a damaged face. They feared people would look at them weird or think differently of them. The victims were referred to as “the most tragic of all war’s victims,” since they were doomed to a life of social isolation because no one would want to be seen with people so disfigured.
Using her talents of sculpting and mask-making, she was able to make custom-made masks for these war victims and change their lives forever. Ladd was honored for her work in 1932 when she received the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the French Government. Due to her charitable deed towards the disfigured and mentally beaten down men of war, it changed many people’s lives for the better.
The process of making these prosthetic faces was entirely custom made and representative of the recipient’s features that were still visible. A cast would be made and sculpted onto clay or plasticine. Then this was used to form the appropriate prosthetic. The metal is then painted with hard enamel per the recipient’s skin tone. Real hair is used to create eyebrows, eyelashes, and other facial hair. Then to actually wear the prosthetic, it was donned with strings or eyeglasses for retention.
Anaplastology is the official name fo Ladd’s line of work for the present day period. It’s officially coined as, ‘art and science of restoring absent or malformed anatomy through artificial means’. More before and after photos of war victims with their face masks can be viewed here.
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