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Wooden mask probably worn by prisoners prior to execution, Europe, 1501-1800

A torture victim is thought to have worn this grotesque mask. This is because prisoners were taken through the streets to be executed. The mask is made from carved wood. Such executions were public events for many centuries. They were sometimes attended by thousands of spectators. The humiliation of those about to be killed was part of the spectacle. This object may seem out of place in the medical collection established by Henry Wellcome. However, his collection also encompassed broader social and cultural aspects of life, death, health and illness.

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Glossary: mask

A covering worn on or held in front of the face for disguise, to amuse, terrify or to symbolise.