It is from a young woman drowned in the Seine in the nineteenth century, used for decades for the mannequins with which one practices mouth-to-mouth breathing.
During some occupational safety courses that workers happen to attend, they are usually explained what to do in the event of a fire, for example, and first aid maneuvers are taught among other things. When practicing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a vaguely disturbing-looking dummy usually appears, consisting of a torso and a slightly expressionless face with the appearance of a young woman or young man. with identical traits. It happens not only in Italy, but also abroad.
At first glance it may seem an invented, abstract face, but in reality it belongs to a truly existed woman, whose identity is unknown but whose face, it is said, is "the most kissed in the world" because of her breathing mouth to mouth performed on the mannequin. And even before becoming the model for the CPR mannequin, the woman's face was already known as an inspiring model of artists, draftsmen and even writers.
Of this woman's story we only know what happened to her after her death. In the 1880s, her body was found drowned in the Seine, in Paris. At that time it was customary to expose unidentified bodies for a short period, in case someone recognized them. In the meantime, however, the doctor on duty at the morgue was particularly struck by the woman's face, in which he saw a half smile similar to that of Leonardo's Mona Lisa. He then decided to make a plaster cast of her face, to preserve her features.
After some time the pattern of her face began to appear in the Parisian shops and her story began to circulate. Artists, poets and writers were fascinated by her, and she gradually became a reference model for all the major art and design studios in Europe. The Unknown of the Seine, as they had begun to call it, was also dedicated to works such as The Worshiper of The Image by Richard Le Gallienne, from 1900, which told the story of a mask with an evil and dark force, explicitly inspired by the Unknown.
The mysterious story of how the Unknown died has fascinated many, but there are those who are not convinced it is really plausible. Her face, as it has been handed down, would be too relaxed and healthy to be that of a drowned person. A few years ago, BBC's Jeremy Grange made some inquiries, going to Paris to speak with the Brigade Fluviale, the city's river police, particularly expert in finding corpses in the Seine. According to Brigadier Pascal Jaquin, it is strange that a person with the features of the Unknown had drowned: "I am surprised to see such a relaxed face," Jaquin told Grange. “All the people we find in the water, drowned or suicide, are not like that. They are swollen, they don't look good. "
Whatever the story of the Unknown, her face already famous at the beginning of the twentieth century became even more so in the second half of the century. The second fame of the Unknown, this time in the form of a mannequin, is due to a Norwegian toymaker, Asmund Laerdal.
In 1955, Laerdal's son was in danger of dying from drowning. His father managed to save him for a very short time, reviving him and managing to free his respiratory tract from the water he had swallowed. Experience marked him and some time later, when he was asked for help with a first aid course, he realized that he needed a manikin with a torso and face to practice cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, a technique that had been invented a short time ago. before.
According to Laerdal, however, the mannequin's face had to be as realistic as possible. It was then that he thought of a mask that was in his grandparents' house, that of the Unknown, and he decided to use it for his mannequin, which was then given the name of Resusci Anne (from resuscitation, which in English means "resuscitation"). The Anne mannequin has established itself over the years as the standard for first aid courses, and has been produced continuously since 1960.
Today Laerdal has grown into a large company specializing in medical emergency simulation, breathing, rescue, and training in various fields. The Anne mannequin has been updated, there is a version with arms and legs but it still has the face of the Unknown. According to the company, it has helped more than 400 million people practice first aid maneuvers.