Changing face: masks from the British Museum



People wear masks for amusement, deception or protection. Usually the masks transform the wearer by giving them a new appearance. But their deeper significance has always varied greatly between different cultures and periods.

Changing Face explores some of these differences. It includes masks worn by the living and by the dead, masks that were used for entertainment and others that had a role in ritual. There is a mask that gave animal-like qualities to human beings and one which gave human qualities to vegetables.

Masks also illustrate the many ways in which the human face has been represented - the generic or specific, abstract or realistic, the idealized and the absurd. Changing Face therefore raises questions about how people portray themselves and how they choose to reveal or conceal their identities.