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

Posted on October 11, 2012


“As a new demand for privacy progressively isolated people from each other, the use of, among other things, a mask could offer a way out of this self-imposed isolation and inhibition.”

“These “masks” in a sense run counter to modern expectations about what a mask is there for: their purpose is not to protect and conceal, but to torture and expose.”

“It became “normal” to live as a stranger among strangers, to accept and to respect the anonymity of others.”

It was interesting to read about the evolution of masks and how they have been used in different ways over time in society. Masks were used as a way out of things and changed peoples identities. In London communities, people knew all their neighbors, families, and extended families in the Seventeenth century. However, once the city began to grow more people became strangers. Unknown people began to be treated as guests or looked at as an outsider and even a menace. In contrast to these times in today’s society in larger cities such as, London it is difficult to grasps this concept because when in public almost everyone you see is a “stranger”. People in this time, demanded privacy and with such eagerness they used masks to hide not only what they looked like but also who they were. I wonder how they were able to meet new people? Or if they ever wanted to?

Masks were only used by people in public to conceal but also used to torture and expose. Metal cage like masks were used and some even had bells on them to get more attention. It was interesting to read that they were used in a ritual form and that women wore them for humiliation in public. I can’t believe how these women felt when wearing these masks and how the public reacted? I don’t think I would be able to wear one of these masks in public and still be able to function in society again. Ever since reading this I have been thinking about all the masks that were used and the different reasons. I think it was more acceptable to be used to conceal but then were also used to expose. However, I’m sure people preferred to look at others in humiliation than them not having a mas of their own.


Posted in: ART 302