How are we wearing masks

When we’re away from home we use masks, hardly ever using them as masks, as we can see in Emilio Lonardo’s drawings realized exclusively for Domus.

Under the chin. Over the ear. Someone also on the forehead. The obligation to wear masks is interpreted in Italy in a creative way, just take a walk in the street or in the park to realize it. The function of the personal protective equipment has taken second place: when faced with the order to wear a mask, it has been transformed into a tinsel, it has been interpreted as an accessory to be worn, as a plaque to be shown in case of control by the authorities. Designer Emilio Lonardo captures this quarantine epiphenomenon with some illustrations for Domus.

The mask as we know it is a little more than a hundred years old and since then its design has changed very little. Its introduction during a pandemic dates back to a Chinese doctor born in Penang, now Malaysia, who studied at Cambridge. Called by the offices of the Empire to find a solution to the terrible pandemic that had struck Manchuria, the lung plague that massacred 99% of the sick, Wu Lien-teh was inspired by the masks of surgeons, in the West since the end of the twentieth century, to create a new type, easily made from a surgical gauze, composed of several layers. This solution to the spread of the epidemic was so unprecedented that it immediately attracted criticism from Gerald Mesny, a doctor who was on site to replace Wu; the Frenchman refused to wear the mask and died two days later.  Sixty thousand masks were produced and distributed to the population and Manchuria was quarantined. A decade later, the masks were widely used to protect themselves from the Spanish. We are left with many black and white images of people wearing them. But no one wore them on their forehead or under their chin.

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