The well-known practice of taking a life mask witnessed a revival in the early nineteenth century and was a practice especially promoted by the history painter Benjamin Robert Haydon. Plaster was the material most frequently used in the production of life and death masks owing to its ease of use, its ability to reproduce in fine detail and its light weight. Traditionally, the surface was painted on completion of the mask to protect the delicate nature of the material.
A plaster life mask of Keats by Haydon dated to 1816 is currently in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. A number were made for close friends of Keats, the NPG example in particular was commissioned for the poet John Hamilton Reynolds. A defective matrix of a life mask ascribed to Haydon was formerly in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London where it had been used by the casting service at the museum. It is thought to be a matrix from the Brucciani firm of cast-makers, which had made copies of the Haydon life mask from the mid-19th-century, and which had been absorbed into the V & A casting service in the 1920s. The matrix was subsequently transferred from the V & A to the Casting Service at the British Museum in the early 1980s. One copy was made from it, which is now at Keats House.