Word: KaloprosopiaA word that celebrates the masks we wear.

Word: KaloprosopiaA word that celebrates the masks we wear.

Issue 48

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Arts & Culture

  • Words Rosalind Jana
  • Photograph Tonje Thilesen

Etymology: The word kaloprosopia refers to the practice of living your life as a work of art. Rooted in the Greek words for “beautiful” (kallos) and “face” (prósopon), the term was devised by the fin de siècle French writer and occultist Joséphin Péladan who was dismayed at the rapid ascendancy of capitalism and mass production in late 19th-century Paris.1 Péladan, an eccentric man with a taste for long robes and strong ideas, saw kaloprosopia as a counter to this new age of consumer culture: a way of consciously fashioning a personality that would stand in opposition to the mainstream. 

Meaning: As Oscar Wilde once famously wrote, “give [a man] a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.” Kaloprosopia has been used to describe famous figures as varied as Marlene Dietrich a...

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