The Art of Moulages: How You Like Yer Death Mask? Extra Teeth?

Josh Clark

Dismemberment!
Dismemberment!

Dismemberment!

Thank you to Morbid Anatomy for pointing out a curiosity of which I hadn't previously been aware: moulages. (Boo-ya! How you like that for perfect grammar?) This is a medical art form; using theatrical makeup or wax to simulate trauma or the symptoms of maladies. Right up my alley.

If you happen to be in Dresden late this September and don't have a single Deutsche Mark and you'd like to stick your nose right up to a wax face that's missing an eye and has little else beside a row of bottom teeth, then, brother, are you in luck! A conference is being held on the preservation and restoration of moulages collections at the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in the very city you'll be standing in.

Since Detroit and Juarez combined had a combined homicide rate of 1,939 in 2008, modern cadaver preservation techniques now allow young medical students to examine real, dead, traumatized bodies. Jaurez and Detroit weren't the plug fests they are these days back in the Renaissance, so European physicians relied heavily on moulages to train their students to recognize and properly treat injuries and morbidities. Moulages also serve as an excellent method of documenting the stages of recovery of a single patient (as the 1943 photo above shows). The art continues today, out of public view, in the vast network dedicated to training young patriots, the Boy Scouts.

The Scouts use moulage to simulate things like heat stroke, severe burns and compound fractures to, among other reasons, condition them to seeing the horrors of injury. There's a good explanation and some recipes for concocting homemade moulages here.

The U.S. military uses America's Army to condition troops for war, the BSA uses moulages to expose scouts to the trail. I realize now that I'm wholly unprepared.

More on HowStuffWorks.com: How Face Transplants Work How the Boy Scouts Work How America's Army Works