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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Corona’s Ancestors: Masks and Epidemics at the Viennese Court, 1500–1918


Imperial Carriage Museum / Vienna / Art

Look closely at the photos of W.W. II victory parades, the soldiers returning home and the citizens receiving them, and you’ll see that a lot of people are wearing masks. In addition to the war’s end, the fall of 1945 ushered in a deadly flu epidemic—today long forgotten. A new exhibition exploring the history of epidemics in the years 1500 to 1918 is a reminder of how we have repeatedly swept “Corona’s Ancestors” under the rug. Paintings through the centuries take grim note of the plague, smallpox, cholera, and the Spanish flu. Documents outline the history of vaccination. Masks and clothing testify to the precautions taken against epidemics, while mourning dress reminds us of the loved ones lost to these infections. —J.V.

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Imperial Carriage Museum Schloß, 1130 Wien, Austria
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