I’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.
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