Period: Early Nineteenth Century
Length: 17.5 inches (the whole)
Mask: 8 inches high x 5 inches wide
The neutral ebony papier-mâché mask with a turned and tapered gilt painted wooden handle stick, with later hanging block and loop.
The reverse reveals the word ‘Hero’ written in pencil, a couple of old repairs and a wooden stabilising block which allows the mask to be hung from a string, To the front of the mask the tip of the nose shows some wear but there are no cracks or splits. There is some weakness to where the handle joins the mask but overall the condition is essentially good.
Throughout the world masks are used for their expressive power as a feature of masked performance - both ritually and in various theatre traditions. A familiar and vivid element in many folk and traditional pageants, ceremonies, rituals and festivals, masks are often of an ancient origin. Masks are used almost universally and maintain their power and mystery both for their wearers and their audience.
The neutral mask, as we see here, is a mask of calm, without overt expression, and so essentially represents one that has no past and no thought of the future; only existing in the here and now. This kind of mask is a wonderful tool used to help an actor understand and develop a heightened sense of discovery, awareness of space, presence and a profound awareness of self. This mask is marked ‘Hero’ so, Shakespeare’s Much Ado aside, we can presume it was used at one time to portray the hero.
Now hanging as a decorative delectation, this mask reminds us of the enduring power of pretence and the everlasting appeal of the theatre.