Secession in Masks



On the façades of historic buildings one can frequently see masks depicting human, animal or mythical creatures' faces. They are referred to as mascarons. Often they are the most impressive elements of architectural décor, they provoke emotions and help to distinguish the building from its surroundings.

Today mascarons are most strongly associated with the Secession (Art Nouveau) style of 1890s-1910s. They were in use since Antiquity. In Gothic architecture of Middle Ages images of chimeras, ugly creatures became common. They were supposed to keep evil spirits away from the buildings. In Lviv mascarons became popular in Renaissance and Baroque architecture of sixteenth-eighteenth century, but here they conveyed a different meaning. Usually they were depictions of real people or represented

On the other hand, mascarons in Lviv became common in the Renaissance era (16th c.), and conveyed a different meaning. Usually they portrayed real people or characters – citizens, cossacks or noblemen and included elements of apparel typical of the time. Such mascarons can be seen today on the Bandinelli Palace in Lviv and Hepnerivska (Gepnerowska) townhouse (2 and 28, Rynok sq. accordingly). This tradition was continued in Baroque architecture, but stopped in late 18th – early 19th century.

Today mascarons are strongly associated with Secession. This style broke away from the domination of the Academy in 19th century which forced architects to copy examples of previous historic styles. Architects became free in their artistic designs of the buildings. The mascarons embodied the search for new forms which could express the spirit of change in the Fin-de-Siècle time. References to Classicist or Gothic architecture were not completely abandoned. Sometimes mascarons pictured village people and showed the interest in local folk culture.

Photographs in this gallery are the part of collection of Tanas Nykyforuk and were shown during the exhibition "Secession in Masks". 

Text: Olha Zarechnyuk