Category: mask

Moon mask made by the Baule peoples, Côte d’Ivoire, c. 1880. Via the Met.



Savoyard Helmet, 17th century.

Iron Mask  17th or 18th Century

Possibly from a scold’s bridle or mask of infamy. A scold’s bridle was an instrument of punishment, as a form of torture and public humiliation. The device was an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head. A bridle-bit (or curb-plate), about 2 inches long and 1 inch broad, projected into the mouth and pressed down on top of the tongue. 

The mask of infamy was a torture device used as a form of humiliation. The mask itself caused no physical torture, but the wearer was often chained to a post where he or she was tortured by various members surrounding the scene. The mask would sometimes have a ball, or other type of inner device, to prevent the wailing or screaming of the wearer. The types of masks represented the crime. For example, if the person was considered dirty, he or she would wear the pig shaped mask. It would be locked onto the head for a time determined by the accuser. 

This item was originally displayed as an executioner’s mask alongside a block and axe in the Tower of London.


Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland: Death mask, portraits, and tomb. 

Following her execution for treason in 1587, Henry Gorman wrote: In Fotheringhay, “a dust-covered canopy of state lying neglected in a storeroom and upon its front in letters of fading gold:  En ma fin est mon commencement.” (In my end is my beginning.)

Wearing a Vizard Kept Women Pale and Interesting in the 16th and 17th Centuries