~by Marie Robinson
There’s something so unsettling about a mask. For me, it’s the fixed
expression that really creeps me out. For some, it could be the
overwhelming mystery about who it is behind that mask. Even so, this
blog is dedicated to loving the things that scare us; so pull the
blankets tight and indulge in these historical masks.
masks were popular in the 16th century among wealthy women. There were
comprised of an oval covered in black velvet with two eyeholes and a
small bead on the inside for the lady to clench between her teeth. It
would cover the whole face, and their primary use was for avoiding
sunburn while traveling or enduring long hours outside, as to have pale
skin was not only fashionable, but showed your class, as well.
mask was made with no mouth so that it may increase the heir of mystery
about the woman, although many found the accessory to be downright
The Hannya mask has
been used in various forms of ancient Japanese theatre, generally
referred to as Noh. A program will usually consist of five Noh plays,
usually dramatic stories accompanied by music, with Kyōgen, or comedic
plays between each performance.
The Hannya mask is used
frequently in Noh theatre, and represents a female demon, who has become
that way due to jealousy or obsession. The masks’ dramatic array of
expressions is supposed to represent the complexity of human emotions,
and the actor may portray different emotions through different angles of
the mask. Different skin tones mean different classes; a white-skinned
Hannya mask represents a wealthy woman, red is for low-class women, and a
deep red mask represents a true demon, who was never actually a woman
although they at first pretend to be.
3. Plague Masks
I’m sure most of you are familiar with these, or have at least seen them; these are the masks of the French plague doctors in the 1600’s. Their whole costume, which was put
with the idea of keeping the doctor from infection, consisted of a long
overcoat, boots, gloves, a long smock, and, of course, the signature
bird mask. The “beak” was stuffed with dried flowers and herbs, for at
this time in history the doctors believed the plague was spread through
bad (or “evil”) smells rather than germs. The doctors also carried canes
so that may indicate and examine patients without touching them, and
keep people away.
You can imagine how seeing someone walking
about in this outfit would invoke fear, not only just from its unusually
appearance, but also its association with sickness and death.
4. Splatter Mask
bizarre masks were used in World War I for soldiers riding in tanks to
protect their faces from shrapnel and splinters from the tank. The top
half is goggles so that the soldiers eyes were protected but they could
also see, and the bottom half is chainmail. There’s something about this
awkward combination that makes the mask look primitive and unsettling.
Definitely not something you want to come face-to-face with on the
5. Death Mask
The name pretty
much says it all, here. A death mask is a cast taken of a person’s face
after they have died. They have been used for many different purposes,
from identifying unknown corpses, painting portraits of the deceased, or
simply a way of remembering the dead.
Some celebrities’ death masks include Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon, Beethoven, and Alfred Hitchcock.