Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Metal Face Mask, Brazil, 1846

Source--Thomas Ewbank, Life in Brazil (New York, 1856), p. 437. (Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library)

Comments--Shows a woman wearing a mask talking to a man who is wearing a leg chain and metal collar. "It is said slaves in masks are not so often encountered in the streets as formerly . . . . I met but three or four, and in each case the sufferer was a female. The mask is the reputed ordinary punishment and preventative of drunkenness . . . . the mask is to hinder him or her from conveying the liquor to the mouth. . . . Except a projecting piece for the nose, the metal is simply bent cylinder-wise. Minute holes are punched to admit air to the nostrils, and similar ones in front of the eyes. A jointed strap (of metal) on each side goes round below the ears (sometimes two), and meets one that passes over the crown of the head. . . Most of the collars were of five-eighths inch round iron, some with one prong, others with two . . ." (Ewbank, p. 437). The author spent about seven months in Brazil in 1846. The image is shown on the Mary Evans Picture Gallery (London) website, but the location and date are erroneously given as British Guiana, 1886.

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