The observe of carrying masks, by non-public people in on a regular basis life, began, as did the style for dominoes, in Venice. There the black satin and velvet masks, nonetheless worn at fancy-dress balls and through Carnival time, first obtained, to be enthusiastically adopted in France and England just a little afterward. Within the latter nation, nonetheless, the usage of the masks by no means degenerated into an abuse as in France, though masks turned so trendy within the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that society girls deemed them a necessary accent to the toilette. They weren’t at all times worn : generally they had been carried within the hand and held as much as the face solely when essential. The unique elected to look masked on the theatre and different public locations.
However the common carrying of masks turned such a public menace and incentive to crime that in 153 5 an edict was issued in France prohibiting the style excepting throughout Carnival time. Beneath Henry IV. the privilege was restricted to the the Aristocracy, and it was made a capital crime for any commoner to don a masks.
With Louis XIII. the masks fell into non permanent abeyance, solely to be revived with renewed vigour underneath his successor. The primary event upon which Louis XIV. appeared in a masks was on the Palais Cardinal in January 1656. From that date till January 1668 he was an enthusiastic supporter of the vogue. The style, prevalent in 1650, of ladening masks with superfluous trimming was of however brief period. Whereas the craze lasted a ruching of lace adorned the highest, a lace frill the underside, and the eyes had been encrusted with numerous decorations to such an extent that girls, descending from their carriages, had been obliged to be led, it being not possible for them to see. The preposterous vogue impressed Scarron’s ditty :
Dirai-je remark ces fantasques
Oui portent dentelles a leurs masques En chamarrent les trous des yeux
Croyant que leur masque en est mieux.
Like its affiliate the domino
Like its affiliate the domino, the masks progressively pale away with the passing of the eighteenth century. In Italy it loved the longest and most undisputed sway. There it was worn by all members of the group, together with the clergy. The Council of Ten, the Inquisitors, and the members of the Holy Workplace usually, each in Italy and Spain, had been carefully masked when employed upon the train of their horrible capabilities.
Sure unwritten however common and indisput- in a position legal guidelines rule the carrying of masks. Whether or not worn privately or in public, its disguise has always and in all international locations been revered as inviolably sacred. To the masked the best extravagance of language and gesture is permitted. He’s allowed to take pleasure in acrid personalities and proclaim scathing truths which, even when addressed to the monarch himself, go unrebuked. To strike a masks is a critical offence, whereas in no class of society, nonetheless degraded, would anybody dare to unmask a lady. One more prerogative entitles the masked to ask any lady current, whether or not masked or not, to bounce with him, etiquette decreeing that the queen of the land could not declare exemption from this rule. Expensive to romance is the masked highwayman, who flourished till the arrival of railways robbed him of his occupation ; and a grim determine is ever the masked headsman.