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Arcueil Journal: At a Family Workshop Near Paris, the ‘Drowned Mona Lisa’ Lives On

In 2008, high rent forced the family to abandon its original shop on Rue Racine on the Left Bank near the Seine and consolidate its entire operation in the workshop in Arcueil. Then crises in the family made it more difficult to keep the business going.

“There seemed to be no solution except to close,” Mr. Forestier said. “But it was my great-grandfather who opened the atelier when he moved to Paris, originally from a small town in Tuscany. We have more than a century of history. I couldn’t let that happen.”

So Mr. Forestier, a 65-year-old architect who retired from his job as an urban planner a year ago, took over the family business with his associate Quentin Thomas, who had worked as a molder at the atelier for over 20 years. There is now a Facebook page and an internet site.

But the works can be expensive — a mold can cost $ 2,000 to make, a cast upward of $ 1,000. Mr. Forestier often is asked why he doesn’t mass-produce the casts in China.

“Out of the question!” he said.

In the 1960s, L’Inconnue became famous in a different way — as a first aid mannequin to teach CPR. Peter Safar, an Austrian doctor, had recently developed the basics of CPR. He turned to Asmund Laerdal, a Norwegian toymaker, who coincidentally had rescued his young son from drowning, and they decided to create a life-size mannequin as a training tool.

Mr. Laerdal wanted a female doll, assuming that men would not want to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a male dummy. He saw a death mask of L’Inconnue at a relative’s home, was struck by her beauty and decided to make her his model. She was called “Resusci Anne” (“CPR Annie” in the United States) and became a physical symbol of salvation. Since then, millions of people have learned CPR on her, making her the world’s most beloved life-size doll.

As the company’s website explained: “Inspired by the ‘young woman of the Seine,’ CPR Annie has become the symbol of life for millions of people around the world who have received training in modern techniques of resuscitation and for those whose lives have been saved from unnecessary death.”

Source: NYT > World

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