When they are veyl’d on purpose to be seene: The Metamorphosis of the Mask in Seventeenth – and Eighteenth – Century London*

When you hear the word “mask” what do you think of?  Phantom of the Opera, Halloween, or a hardcore football fan?  Let that sink in, try and remember…

McQueen incorporated these beautiful, delicate and terrifying masks for his runway collection…

When was the last time you wore a mask?  For me it was…today.  It was part of an assignment that coincides with the chapter I am reading/what I’m blogging about; I’ll share more of this experience later.  For most of you it was probably for Halloween 2011, when you were a kid, or never.  That’s an assumption, for all I know some of you wear masks on the weekends for fun.

What do you consider a mask?  Face paint, pull over beanie with the eyes cut out, luchador mask or a piece of cloth draped over ones head?  Correct answer, they’re all masks – they serve to protect, disguise, and entertain. 

The purpose of today’s masks differs greatly from what their intended purpose served during the 17th century in London.  Scolds (masque), also known as brindle or brank, were worn by women then were paraded through the streets as a form of shame, punishment or public humiliation.  These masques also served as a means torture, some masks had metal gags protruding inside and concave domes instead of eye holes that were meant to put pressure on the eyes (Entwistle and Wilson 122).  The masques are as grotesque as they sound, I opted for a muted down version take a look for yourself…

Scolds masque was meant to draw attention, humiliate and punish the wearer as they were paraded through the street…

On a complete opposite side of the spectrum, ladies of the 18th century (London) donned ½ masques regularly out in public.  It was a typical accessory for upper-class women during winter because it protected their delicate skin from the cold, or so they say…  It obscured the wearer but attracted attention at the same time (Entwistle and Wilson 127).  The mask evolved from being worn during winter, to year round, to only being worn at masquerades.

The closest depiction of a “authentic” new age masked ball I could find…


One thought on “When they are veyl’d on purpose to be seene: The Metamorphosis of the Mask in Seventeenth – and Eighteenth – Century London*

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