“Plague doctor” Venetian mask

Plague doctor (Medico Della Peste) Venetian masks at a Venetian mask shop in Venice, ItalyI’ve just returned from a holiday in Venice, where I saw, on every narrow strada I wandered, a crowded shop selling ornate Venetian masks.

Typically worn during the Carnival of Venice, these masks have a colourful history. One of their uses: to obscure the wearer’s identity and social status, allowing social interaction outside the bounds of everyday convention…and, in many cases, outside the bounds of propriety and morality!

After I completed my doodle, my 13-year-old pointed out that I’d drawn a “plague doctor” mask. With a long beak that makes it one of the most recognizable and bizarre of the Venetian masks, the Medico Della Peste mask’s macabre history originates with 17th century French physician Charles de Lorme, who adopted the mask while treating victims of the Italian Plague. To protect from airborne diseases, plague doctors filled the mask’s bird-like beak with herbs and scented substances like lavender.

“Cool,” I said. “You learned that it school, did you?” “No,” he said. “On a video game. Assassin’s Creed.” And all this time I thought those games were just turning his brain to mush.

Plague doctor Venetian mask by GPS artist Stephen Lund in Victoria, BC, Canada GPS Garmin Strava art cyclist cycling creativity Venice Italy Venezia Carnival plague doctor mask Medico Della Peste

I completed my “plague doctor” Venetian mask doodle on my birthday. Total distance: 41 kilometres – one kilometre for each year of the age I wish I still was.


* Note: The GPS points will render correctly only if you are logged in at Strava.com

About Stephen

Brand strategist and creative director by day. Hyper-competitive GPS-art obsessed cyclist most of the rest of the time.
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4 Responses to “Plague doctor” Venetian mask

  1. hmunro says:

    Happy (belated) birthday! What a fun and memorable way to mark another year — and isn’t it cool to also note that your son is getting *some* history out of those video games? I do hope you’ll do some more Venice bike-sketches … I’d love to hear more of your impressions about that city. (For starters, did it frustrate you to have to walk everywhere? And did you get lost — or did your map skills come through for you?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stephen says:

      Hey Heather – we really enjoyed Venice, though we spent much of our time there hopelessly lost in the labyrinth. But that just added to the adventure.

      On our first evening in Venice, we spent HOURS looking for a restaurant we’d passed earlier in the day. We eventually found it…but by then it was closed. Someone had told my wife “If you see something you like in Venice, buy it there and then…because you’ll never find it again.” Good advice, I would say.

      I did find it a little challenging to be off the bike for nine days, but the rest did me good. I did my first ever “walking doodle” while in Venice (well, part on foot, part on vaporetto) – see https://stravadoodles.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/22ciao22-doodle-in-venezia.jpg. The lines came out rather zig-zaggy, probably because the narrow passageways between the buildings interfered with the GPS satellite signals. (I encountered a similar issue while doing a doodle among the skyscrapers in downtown Calgary.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • hmunro says:

        I’m (selfishly) very relieved to hear you spent much of your time hopelessly lost in the labyrinth, Stephen — I’ve never been anywhere quite like Venice, where you can literally be holding a map and faithfully noting every intersection and STILL get lost. My husband and I also had the *exact* same restaurant experience you and your wife did. Fortunately, when we went back last September we happened upon the restaurant again (in a totally different location that either of us remembered, of course) and dined there several times. But I think that sense of mystery and serendipity only adds to the magic of the place.

        I love your “walking doodle,” by the way! It’s actually quite impressive, given the terrain and the obstacles (from lost tourists to interesting shops) one encounters in La Serenissima.

        Well, thank you for the fond memories. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Stephen says:

    Another Venice-inspired doodle:

    I’m so glad to know my hopelessly-lostness is a comfort to you…


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