Long before photographs there was not a lot of ways to remember your dead. The practice of death masks became a morbid way to keep your deceased alive…in your heart…and on your mantel.
A death mask is a plaster cast of the head of the deceased. They actually used the dead body to create the mask. I’m not sure how people felt about their dead loved one being braced and flipped around so they could get the right angle. As photography became more common, the tradition began to die out.