Cosmana Navarra’s Death Mask

Cosmana Navarra was an important noble lady, born in the village of Rabat in the 1600s. She was the fourth sibling of Dr. Giovanni Cumbo and Cornelia Navarra. Cosmana Navarra is mostly known as being the prime benefactress for the building of the Church of St Paul in Rabat. At the Wignacourt Museum, one can still find a painting representing Cosmana Navarra holding a plan of the Church of St Paul. The same museum also hosts a number of silver items which were also donated by her. Cosmana Navarra died on the 30th January 1687 at the age of 87. Cosmana is buried in the small chapel within the Rabat parish church, dedicated to San Anton.

This noble lady was very well esteemed during her life, to the extent that her death mask was made in order to immortalise her image even after she left this world. This death mask is now on display on the first floor of the museum just below the above mentioned portrait of Cosmana Navarra. Death masks were used in order to immortalise the image of an important personality. These masks were used especially in the Christian culture of the West and seem to appear mostly from about 1400 onwards.  Plaster was applied over the deceased person’s face. Once dried this would be used as a cast out of which a mask was then made. Cosmana Navarra’s death mask was made of bronze and the cast used is still on display adjacent to the mask itself.  

This particular death mask was produced as a sign of respect and reverence towards such an important benefactress, who left a mark especially on the people of Rabat through the construction of the church of St Paul.