Each masquerade ball mask, together with the complete costume, gave each partygoer a new identity, even if it was for just one night.
When they first arrived on the scene, these events were usually a celebration of a marriage or a pivotal point in a reigning dynasty.
By association therefore, the attendees were almost without exception, members of the elite of society.
The masquerade ball mask gave the wearer a certain anonymity that could be intoxicating.
Many were those who used their masked condition to allow themselves to step outside of their normal personality. By hiding behind a mask, the wearer was able to give free reign to impulses and desires with relatively little danger of having to live with the consequences of their actions.
Of course, any time a group of people decide to wear masks, there are always going to be those who want to try to guess who is behind each mask. Masquerade balls were a great game of divining who was behind what mask.
Of course, anyone who has attended a masquerade ball, or has witnessed one, even on the big screen, inevitably comes away with a new appreciation of the elegance and intricacies of Renaissance European society.
The masks were just one element of a society that valued appearances above all else. From the riches of the costumes, to the stunning architecture and art, the ages image is always one of glamour.
So the next time you have an opportunity to watch a masquerade ball, pay special attention to the masks. Behind each masquerade ball mask is doubtlessly a considerable number of stories, gossip and scandal.