Venetian masks are the best representatives of the Venetian spirit and culture.
Since antiquity, the Venetian masks offered many advantages for the citizens of Venice. The main purpose of the mask was meant to be a social one. With a mask everyone was equal and could speak free.
Dama mask. Photo source: flickr
Soon people realized how many other opportunities they could achieve under a mask. They could be everything they wanted and go everywhere without the fear of beeing recognized. This lead to a decadence of the society that become renowned all Europe. A great amount of travelers was attracted those times by endless possibilities of entertaining and sexual promiscuity.
All Venetian masks may be classified in two main categories: Commedia De’ll Arte and Carnival masks. The first category refers to masks used by professional actors in 16th century. With the mask help they represented in a comic way characters, professions and trades from all around Italy. The second category of Venetian masks was used in different entertainment occasions especially during the Carnival. In the 18th century the Carnival of Venice become the most renowned in the world.
Here are some types of Venetian masks that are still used today during the Carnival.
1. Bauta is the main type of mask worn at the Carnival during the 18th century. It is also very appreciated today during the modern Carnival. It was considered the ideal mask to disguise for the kings and princess. Bauta not only refer to a mask, but to the entire outfit. This included a black 3 pointed hat, a mantle and a veil. The mask (Larva) usually was white. The main advantage was that allowed the holder to eat and drink without removing it.
Bauta mask. Photo credit Giulia Guidi
2. Dama is among the most elegant Venetian masks. It is the correspondent to the elegant ladies of the Cinquecento. This ladies were wearing elaborate coifs and many jewels and were dressing with expensive clothing. Today it is considered one of the most beautiful mask type that is worn during the Carnival.
3. Jester were usually people mentally handicapped or poor, that found employment by behaving in an amusing way. Their clothing was brightly colored and they had a distinctive hat with three points. At the end of each of the points was a jingle bell.
Two Jesters masks. Photo credit Alexander Wallnöfer
4.Volto is a iconic mask of the modern times. It covers the entire face and depicts jut the simple facial features like the nose and lips. It can be stark white as well as gilded and decorated. It was the most common mask worn by ordinary people during Holidays. It is usually worn with a tricorn and cloak. It cannot be worn while eating and drinking.
White Volto masks. Photo source: howtotravelwell
5. Medico della peste belongs to the modern Venetian masks. At its origins this was not a real mask. It was worn by the doctors to protect their face during the numerous episodes of Plague that struck the city. The mask had crystal eyes for protection and a beak in which were stuffed spices or herbs to purify the air. A black hat, a long black cloak and a stick to move the patients without coming into physical contact were habitual in the doctors outfit.
Medico della peste mask. Photo source: flickr
6. Colombina is a modern mask named after a stock character in the Commedia dell’Arte. The character was a comic servant usually dressed in a ragged dress. Colombina is just a half mask that covers only the eyes, the nose and the upper cheeks. It is frequently highly decorated with precious metals like gold and silver.
Colombina mask. Photo credit Giulia Guidi
7. Zanni is among the classical Venetian mask of the Commedia dell’arte. Zanni is the archetype of the comic servant. He is considered a stupid character. This idea is suggested through the low forehead and the long nose. The mask has a very long nose with a reverse curve towards the end. It has many other names, but the most famous are Pulcinella or Arlecchino.
Zanni masks. Photo source: suite101
With such interesting history and various types Venetian masks are truly fascinating. What is your preferred mask?
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