Truth be told, masks expose the hidden face

Mask Money Heist Coronavirus
As we learn to live with masks on, this time may perhaps also be opportune to learn to take our other masks off. | Image - Prathap Ravishankar

Some time during the early 17th century, when numerous plagues were raging across Europe, hooded figures wearing beaked masks came to be associated with sure death. These figures were actually plague doctors, who were clothed in their version of the hazmat suit. Although full robes weren’t uncommon, it is the mask with glasses and a top hat, that gave it all its sinister associations.

Jan van Grevenbroeck (1731-1807), Venetian doctor during the time of the plague. Pen, ink and watercolour on paper. Museo Correr, Venice | Photo - Public Domain

Charles De Lorme, the physician to the European royals, is credited with inventing that infamous outfit and mask with a beak, which held a mixture of herbs called theriac (an antidote to poison) and was supposed to help the doctor counter miasma (noxious air emanating from organic sources, once thought to cause diseases). Today, it is sported by many during Halloween and other carnivals.

The many faces of the mask

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