MODERN MASKS AND THEIR USES Our civilized world has neglected and forgotten the use of masks and it is only in this century that the interest in them has revived. We are here concerned solely with modern masks as the products of artists' imagination, taste and skill—masks that have quality which makes them different from and superior to all trivial products of manufacture and all banalities of the sort popularly called "false faces." Early Significance.—Although the ritual and religious sig nificance that prevailed in antiquity and exists now among primi tive and barbaric people is unknown to us, there remains the mystery that envelops the mask, the same mystery that is at the bottom of all the supernatural meanings with which the ancients and the modern primitive people surrounded the masks and gave them such prominent part in their religious ceremonies; for when a person, no matter how sophisticated or naive, confronts a masked man, that person will be mystified. The mask may or may not fascinate, it may or may not terrify, it may appeal to the sense of humour or fail to do so, but it will never fail to mystify.
As various masks are put on the same person his figure will seem to alter. Its proportions and character become in the eyes of the spectator the figure belonging to the mask, and this is most convincing when the figure is nude. An ugly face makes the whole figure appear ungainly, just as a beautiful physiognomy will bring to our consciousness its beauty and grace.
There are of course certain obvious and simple facts which every art student knows and which are dominant in this decep tion. One of them is the proportion of the size of the head to the height of the body : a large face dwarfs the figure and a small head makes the figure appear taller. More exactly, if the length of the head is less than one-eighth of the whole figure the figure will appear very tall. This can be done, because, para doxical as it may seem, it is possible to fit a mask with a smaller face over a larger face as the diagram shows in fig. 3.
A mask in action seems to change its expression. This is a strange delusion which can be explained in the first place by the of utmost grotesqueness, besides the infinite possibilities of colour, are at his disposal. This variety may be divided into three dis tinct categories : (I) Masks representing in a more or less real istic manner types of men and women. (2) Grotesque masks, demons, gargoyles and fantastic representations of animal char acteristics (see Plate III.). (3) Caricature.
The masks of the first category may portray single individuals or generalized types, and these last based on synthetic studies of human characteristics are the most interesting problems for the creator. There is therefore no excuse for indulging in mean ingless creations, thoughtless imitations or other such banalities that would bring the standard of the modern mask back to the trivialities of recent products of manufacture that degrade it. Each mask should be the result of a thrilling inspiration and long and careful meditation based on accumulated knowledge. It must be impressive and full of significance ; it must be more im pressive and interesting than a human face,—all of which means that it must be a work of art. A modern maker of masks should get well acquainted with the wonderful masks of the ancients, and those of the barbaric peoples and primitive tribes, not to imi tate them but to try to emulate their excellent qualities, their vigour and significance.