The Allure of Masks

I’m over at the Red Lipstick Journal this week talking about masks. Obviously this piece was much inspired by The Story of O and in turn Pauline Réage’s fascination with Leonor Fini’s masks (thanks to Tiger Loaf for a cornucopia of Fini images). Here’s a little taste:

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” ~ Oscar Wilde
 
The erotic allure of the mask has been recognized for centuries. Think of the Egyptians who worshipped gods with animal heads and tell me those on their knees before the gods never had lustful thoughts as they gazed up at Bastet or Sekhmet. The mask allows anonymity at the orgy, allowing one to be herself—perhaps the self she ever dared show before.
 
One of my favourite examples of an erotic mask comes from the book The Story of O. At the end of the novel O appears at a party clad only in an owl mask and lead by a silver chain. Pauline Réage [real name, Dominique Aury] explained in her essay “A Girl in Love” (which appears as an introduction to some editions of the sequel) that she had fallen in love with artist Lenor Fini’s owl mask and found it the ideal expression for O’s ultimate fantasy. It’s fascinating that the character who had every inhibition stripped away from her physically, found the perfection of her role with the addition of a mask. The owl’s mask rendered O completely free…
Read the rest at Red Lipstick. Now here’s a treat: a video of Fini’s illustrations for The Story of O. Wonderful!
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