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The facial prosthetics of World War I

Why the war’s wounded needed a sculptor.

Why World War I’s wounded needed a sculptor
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

During World War I, cases beyond the reach of surgeons had an unlikely resource: sculptors.

The above video shows the work of Anna Coleman Ladd. Ladd worked at the American Red Cross in Paris in the early 1900s, adapting the techniques of British sculptor Francis Derwent Wood to help restore her patients’ faces. (You can see selections of her pre- and postwar work at the Library of Congress.)

The results were more than 150 painted masks that meticulously recreated the facial features of wounded soldiers. These masks weren’t perfect, but, as the video shows, they were a remarkable recreation of the soldiers’ prewar faces.

You can read Ladd’s papers here. And for more Vox videos, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.