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Face Masks in the Middle Ages

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Illustration by Robinet Testard in Le livre des clères et nobles femmes by Giovanni Boccaccio, 1496. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale. MS Fr. 599, f.67r (anonymous translation from the Latin original, c. 1362).

In the present time there is much discussion about the necessity of face masks and photos of people wearing them regularly appear in the newspapers. In the Middle Ages face masks were already highly developed as we can see in this illustration of a martial woman with her mask up and another person, probably her husband, with the mask down, both on horseback. Although the purpose of this mask was very different from the modern anti-virus mask, the technique and the material for optimal protection and comfort was already there. Moreover the whole outfit of both riders was also used for decoration and identification.  History repeats itself, but always differently.

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