Plague Doctor Mask, Steno Museum

The Secrets Behind the Plague Doctor’s Terrifying Costume

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Jan van Grevenbroeck (1731-1807), Venetian doctor during the time of the plague. Pen, ink and watercolour on paper. Museo Correr, Venice

Jan van Grevenbroeck (1731-1807), Venetian doctor during the time of the plague. Pen, ink and watercolour on paper. Museo Correr, Venice ( Public Domain )

It is uncertain as to how effective l’Orme’s ‘plague suit’ really was. l’Orme himself lived into his 90s, which is pretty remarkable considering the age he was living in. It has been pointed out, however, that many plague doctors were not quite so fortunate, and ended up being victims of the plague themselves. It is likely, therefore, that l’Orme’s invention did little to protect its wearers for the dreaded disease.

Top image: Plague Doctor Mask, Steno Museum ( Tom Banwell Designs )

By Wu Mingren 


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The Romans knew what caused the plague but this became forgotten knowledge. A Roman historian left a poem, a couplet, which said, "The plague is not spread by the rats, but by the beasts that ride their backs."

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