Life was tough in 17th Century England, if you did manage to survive childhood you could look forward to another thirty to forty years of drudgery and toil provided of course that you managed to avoid the plague! It is no surprise then that the arrival of a Plague Doctor to your hamlet was seldom seen as a good omen. A portent of imminent death the plague doctors were physicians who tried to bring some comfort to those inflicted with very little hope of success.
|Engraving by Paul Fürst, 1656.|
It is of course their costume that still to this day manages to combine fascination with fear. The eerie beaked, birdlike mask, with small glass eyes was developed, perhaps not unreasonably, in the belief that strong, pleasant smelling concoctions that included camphor, myrrh and lavender stuffed into the ‘beak’ would act as a filter against the plague ridden, filthy air.
A full length waxed cotton or leather coat was again hoped to afford some protection from the disease with many carrying a staff, not as a symbol of office, but to lift the clothing and bed sheets of infected patients to get a better look without actually resorting to touching them!
Such is the delight of the ‘Witchfinder General’ world that the truly iconic Plague Doctor can be included as an apothecary with the ability to revive those that are in base contact with him. I was only planning on painting one of these physicians of fear from the 'Wargames Foundry' range, but it seemed such a waste not to polish off the remaining group including the ‘patient’ that is being ‘oh-so’ sympathetically transported in a wheelbarrow.
Requiring very little in the way of preparing, I opted to simply ape the colour palette used by Foundry, perhaps not my most creative decision, but it seemed to work for me. Wanting to put my own stamp on them I invested a little more time in the rose tinted lenses of their masks and finally a piece of self indulgent frippery saw me use bostik glue to create the illusion of the red paint, used for marking the doors of the afflicted, flowing from a brush to the ground.