Object in Focus

An amazing find of an Elizabethan “visard” mask

Elizabethan Vizard Mask







This is a large Visard mask (also spelled ‘vizard’), worn by gentlewomen in the 16th and possibly into the early 17th centuries.

The mask was found during the renovation of an inner wall of a 16th-century stone building. The wall was approximately four feet thick, and the mask was found concealed within the inner hard core of the wall, which consisted of soil, straw and horse hair (for insulation). The mask was folded in half, lengthways, and placed within a small rectangular niche behind the face of the wall. Due to the conditions when found, the mask has an amount of soil and straw adhering to one half. The opposite half still has the velvet material in relatively good condition, but is in need of some conservation to prevent further damage.

The mask is oval and measures 195mm in length and 170mm in width. The eyes are lentoid, 30mm wide and 15mm high. The mouth is 48mm wide, widening in the centre to make a gap for the nose. The nose area is strengthened to stand out and form a case around the wearer’s nose. The mask weighs 32.4g (although this weight is inaccurate, due to the amount of soil and straw adhering to one side).

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We would like to thank The Portable Antiquities Scheme for allowing us to use the information from: http://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/402520.


Cassidy,J (2010) NARC-151A67 A POST MEDIEVAL CLOTHING. Webpage available at:
http://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/402520 [Accessed: 18 Jan 2011 15:22:02]

Related material

For more information about vizard masks including description, history, design and materials see:



Related visual sources:

"In this fashion noble women either ride or walk up and down"

A horseman with his wife in the saddle behind him

Doll's mask – Lady Clapham's mask, 1690-1700 (made), V & A, London

English lady in winter costume

Related textual sources:

  • An example of a textual appearance of the terms “mask”, “vizard” in an Early English text by Marston, John, The scourge of villanie Three bookes of satyres, 1598, can be seen below:

Her mask, her vizard, her loose-hanging gowne
For her loose lying body, her bright spangled crown
Her long slit sleeue, stiffe busk, puffe verdingall,
Is all that makes her thus angelicall.”

Marston, John, The scourge of villanie Three bookes of satyres, 1598 (source: English Books online, STC (2nd ed.) /17485, Pforzheimer, II:664. /[126] p., Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, STC / 433:16)
  • More examples of texts with the occurence of the term referring to the object of the mask can be found below:



Christoph Heyl, ‘The Metamorphosis of the mask in seventeenth and eighteenth century London’ in Efrat Tseelon, ed., Masquerade and Identities: Essays on Gender, Sexuality and Marginality’, Routledge, London, 2001, pp. 114-134.
Christoph Heyl, “A Passion for Privacy. Untersuchungen zur Genese der buergerlichen Privatsphaere in London, 1660-1800” (Munich, 2004), pp. 305-412.

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