The Face That Saved Millions


Okay, Norbert, time for trivia - who has the most kissed lips in history?

Well, for me, it's my wife, of course.

Then she's about to get jealous because you and I have both kissed her!

Oh this is bad.

But wait, millions or more people have also kissed her because she's the face of the CPR mannequin that many of us have trained on, and the origin story is fascinating.

Whew, thought I was going to be in trouble there. Okay, true Dave. The face is actually modeled after the real face of a girl who drowned in the River Seine in Paris in the late nineteenth century. She's known by the French phrase "L'Inconnue de la Seine" or the unknown woman of the Seine.

She may have been 16 and died by suicide but that's a guess. At the time, corpses in the morgue were displayed in a streetside window for people to identify. No one did, but she was noticed by perhaps a pathologist who had someone make a plaster cast of her face.

Many copies were made and it became a hit throughout Europe. The renowned author, Albert Camus described her as the drowned Mona Lisa for her enigmatic smile.

Over the years, she has become a cultural icon inspiring poems, stories and art works. She really became immortalized when CPR mannequins were needed to keep medical students from injuring one another as they practiced CPR.

The man who made it saw the face of L'Inconnue in a relative's home and used it. That's how we ended up with Resusci Annie. Chances are, you have locked lips with L'Inconnue and learned to give the kiss of life.

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More Information

How a Dead Girl in Paris Wound Up With The Most-Kissed Lips in All of History
Nobody knew her name. We know nothing about her age or background or how her life brought her to Paris and left her drowned in the River Seine. But when her lifeless body was pulled from those murky waters in the late 19th century, the girl known forevermore as L'Inconnue de la Seine (The Unknown Woman of the Seine) began an amazing new story in death...

Ophelia of the Seine
The calmly smiling, beautiful face of this young woman hung in the studios of artists and writers across Europe throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. She inspired Rilke, Man Ray and Nabokov. And eventually ended up as a first-aid resuscitation model. But who was she? Angelique Chrisafis finds out...

How a girl's 'death mask' from the 1800s became the face of CPR dolls
A drowned woman became "the most kissed girl in the world" after a model of her face was used to design a CPR dummy...