chamber music project: the mari lwyd work begins

My work on the music project includes producing a dark and mysterious painting of the various characters of the Mari Lwyd mumming tradition. In preparation I’m making a series of maquettes, which as regulars here will know is my usual method of exploring a new theme.

A mumming character known to have occasionally taken part in Mari Lwyd events, was the man dressed as a woman sometimes called the He/She or the ‘Judy’ (presumably from Punch & Judy), the reversal of sexual roles in mumming traditions being traceable back as far as the Roman feast of Saturnalia. My father recalled just such a fearsome ‘travesti’ barging into the parlour of  Oak House in Llanfrechfa and thrusting a besom up the chimney to swipe the sooty twigs across the whitewashed walls, a vandalism that enraged his mother.

I’ve a notion to put the ‘Judy’ in a crude cloth-mask topped with a countrywoman’s bonnet. A burly farmworker’s body in ill-fitting bodice and skirts, and a face daubed with rough-rouged cheeks and slatternly mouth. There is something darkly disturbing inherent in this paint-faced, hairy-legged, horny-toenailed variant of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Below: first-stage unpainted maquette.

mummers

My original reference for the ‘cloth’ mask, was this intriguing photograph.

15 thoughts on “chamber music project: the mari lwyd work begins

  1. Those cloth masks are really quite scary, until you get to the one at the front where they seem to have run out of white fabric and draped the kitchen curtain. That made me smile. A trainee scary person perhaps. xx

    • Then you must have felt as though you’d walked into a chamber of horrors when you came to Tretower all those years ago to find yourself sharing work space with a mask-maker!!! Glad that you managed to conquer your fears enough for us to have become friends!

      I see the link from your name is working now. Well done. (-;

  2. Love the solid shape of that maquette Clive, but that photo is something else. Quite bizarre and immediately puts me in mind of those Saul Steinberg mask photos for some reason. Great to see the project has started. Good luck with it.

  3. Well that IS creepy, the cloth mask makes me think of several horror movies at once including the Texas Chainsaw Massacre! Thank you for letting us into the start of these ideas taking shape, fascinating stuff

    • Sometimes the simplest masks are the creepiest. The improvised denial of identity to onlookers that makes us feel as though we are being observed with, perhaps, malign intent. Brrrrrrrrr!!!

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