How many people do you think thought about the training manikin’s origin while practicing CPR (cardipulmonary resuscitation)? Probably not a lot, even though Rescue Anne’s (yes, that’s the manikin’s name) story about becoming the most kissed face is both captivating and tragic.

„The drowned Mona Lisa”

The story began in Paris in the 1880s, when the body of a young woman, not more than 16 years of age, was found in the Seine. According to pathologists, the unidentified girl committed suicide, as there were no signs of violence found on her. One of the pathologists at the morgue was so captivated by her beauty that he had to make a wax plaster cast death mask of her face. Back then the autopsy of unidentified bodies happened in public, despite this, no one recognized the girl. Albert Camus, philosopher, claimed the girl to be the drowned Mona Lisa. According to another legend, L’Inconnue de la Seine – The Unknown Woman of the Seine – is the daughter of a German mask manufacturer.

In culture

Although we may never know the true origin of the wax figure, its portrayal in books, movies, and even ballet performances immediately became popular, the first being Richard Le Gallienne’s novel, The Worshipper of the Image. She also appears in the Austro-Hungarian-born playwright’s, Ödön von Horváth’s play, Die Unbekannte aus der Seine. The lines “Annie, are you OK?” from Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal are also inspired by Annie. The song Rescue Annie from Frank Turner, singer-songwriter, was released barely a month a ago, proving the immortality of the story. [1][2]

But who is Rescue Anne?

The mannequin was born of the idea of three men in 1958, with the sole purpose of practicing CPR. The technique of CPR that’s still being used today was developed by Peter Safar, an Austrian anesthesiologist, and James Elam, an American doctor in 1956. They practiced mouth-to-mouth resuscitation combined with chest compressions on volunteers, until a Norwegian puppet maker, Asmund Laerdal created the mannequin’s head and torso. As a result of this, the practice of CPR on Rescue Anne and other similar wax figures has become widespread in the 60s, and is still popular today. The mannequins are being produced by Laerdel, a major manufacturer of medical equipment. [3] [4]

In Hungary, we mainly use the male equivalent of Anne, Ambu Sam. The story of L’Inconnue de la Seine is a sad, tragic one, although she is indirectly responsible of saving thousands of human lives.