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Through the myth of the executioner’s mask, Alison Kinney explores our tortured relationship with life, death, mortality and museums.

There is an ‘executioner’s mask’ in the Tower of London, with a spooky, lopsided grin. The mask was dismissed in the 1970s as a Victorian fake, based on a scold’s bridle. The description of it in the current Royal Armouries blog reads:

This rather gruesome painted iron mask is from the 17th/18th centuries. It is made of three plates, roughly constructed with openings for the eyes, nostrils and mouth. In the nineteenth century, it was displayed at the Tower alongside a block and axe as an executioner’s mask. However, it is unlikely that an executioner would have worn an iron mask like this.

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