Skip to main content

Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage your visit so please book ahead. Need to cancel or rejig? Email bookings@npg.gov.au

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Ned Kelly death mask, date unknown

an unknown artist after Maximilian Kreitmayer

cast plaster

Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly (1855–1880), bushranger, is Australia’s pre-eminent folk hero. Kelly and his siblings were raised by their mother, Ellen Kelly (née Quinn, 1832–1923) after the death of their father, an Irish ex-convict. The family was in constant conflict with the authorities and Ned Kelly, implicated in the criminal activities of the Quinn clan, was charged with several offences over the 1860s and 1870s, and spent some years in prison. In 1878, accused of shooting at a policeman, Ned and his younger brother Dan Kelly went into hiding near Mansfield, Victoria, and were joined by their friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart. Ned killed three members of a police party sent to capture him in the famous shoot-out at Stringybark Creek in October of that year. Despite the huge prices on their heads, the exploits of the ‘Kelly gang’ multiplied. They avoided capture until June 1880 when they arrived in Glenrowan, intending to ambush a police train. Ned, wearing a homemade suit of armour, was wounded in the ensuing ‘siege’ in which Dan Kelly, Byrne and Hart all died. Kelly survived, only to be hanged in Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1880.

Following the execution of a notorious prisoner, it was customary for a death mask to be made. Maximilian Kreitmayer, the proprietor of a Melbourne waxworks, took a cast of Ned’s clean-shaven head in the deadhouse of the Melbourne Gaol. One of the several masks that were made of Kelly was immediately put on display in Kreitmayer’s establishment.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery Study Collection, Canberra
Gift of John Molony 2018

Accession number: SC1.2019

Currently on display: Gallery Seven (Ian Potter Gallery)

View zoomable image on Google Arts & Culture

Copyright image request form
Request a digital copy of an image for publication

Artist and subject

Maximilian Kreitmayer

Ned Kelly

Subject professions

Law and justice

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Phrenology video: 3 minutes 25 seconds
Phrenology video: 3 minutes 25 seconds
Phrenology video: 3 minutes 25 seconds
Phrenology video: 3 minutes 25 seconds

Ned Kelly and death masks

'Judge a person by their cover'

Portrait story

Alexandra Roginski explains the history behind the pseudo-science of phrenology.

Ned Kelly death mask, date unknown an unknown artist after Maximilian Kreitmayer
Ned Kelly death mask, date unknown an unknown artist after Maximilian Kreitmayer
Ned Kelly death mask, date unknown an unknown artist after Maximilian Kreitmayer
Ned Kelly death mask, date unknown an unknown artist after Maximilian Kreitmayer

Getting a head

Magazine article by Alexandra Roginski, 2015

Alexandra Roginski gets a feel for phrenology’s fundamentals.

Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824
Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824
Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824
Alexander Pearce
executed for murder
July 19th 1824

Public hanging

Magazine article by Michael Desmond, 2008

As a convict Thomas Bock was required to sketch executed murders for science; as a free man, fashionable society portraits.

We would like to thank our partners.
© National Portrait Gallery 2020
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.