Maaza Mengiste visits the remains of a two-year-old girl named Rosalia Lombardo at the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo. Lombardo died in 1920 and was embalmed by taxidermist Alfredo Salafia:
Her blond hair still holds its vibrancy, held by a ribbon that has somehow managed to keep its colour. Curls fall across her forehead in wisps, combed carefully into place. Her lashes are thick and so long they seem to brush her plump cheeks. Her lips do not draw back with the shrunken, distorted smile common in the other mummies. She is called ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and rightly so. She looks as if she’s just a breath away from opening her eyes and smiling into your curious gaze. Rosalia was perhaps Salafia’s most glorious achievement, a testament to his skills and the effectiveness of the embalming fluids whose formula he would take with him to his grave.
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)