6th May, 2021 12:00

From the Curious to the Extraordinary

Lot 119


a wrought iron scold’s (or witch's) bridle full head mask with hinged backplate,
50 x 32cm

This scold’s bridle was probably produced as a curio for Victorian gentlemen, as homage to ‘tales of olde’, popular at the time.

The scold's bridle - sometimes called a witch's bridle, a brank's bridle, or simply branks - was an instrument of punishment, as a form of torture and public humiliation. The device was an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head (although some bridles were masks that depicted suffering). First recorded in Scotland in 1567, the branks were also used in England, where it may not have been formally legalised as a punishment. The kirk sessions and barony courts in Scotland inflicted the contraption mostly on female transgressors and women considered to be rude, nags or common scolds.

Branking was designed as a mirror punishment for shrews or scolds; women of the lower classes whose speech was deemed riotous or troublesome - often women suspected of witchcraft - by preventing such gossips or scolds from speaking. This also gives it its other name, the 'gossip's bridle'.

Sold for £875

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