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Venetian Carnival Masks

Listed under Original Gifts in Venice, Italy.

  • Photo of Venetian Carnival Masks
  • Photo of Venetian Carnival Masks
Photo of Venetian Carnival Masks
Photo by flickr user Caitlinator
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Masks were once almost an everyday part of life in Venice, and although they were worn in celebration of the Ascension, Christmas, St. Stephen's Day, Carnival (in the weeks preceding Shrove Tuesday) and a number of other festival periods, they also lent themselves to subversive activities, since a disguise is even more useful to those with criminal intent than those with revelry on their minds.

The image of a cloaked, anonymous figure in a pale mask making his way through the chill, misty streets of Venice is a romantic and exciting one. The magic and intrigue of Carnival, when people of all social classes and reputations once concealed their identities and thereby mingled freely, remains vivid in the memory of anyone who has experienced it.

The revival of the Carnival tradition in the 1980s and the opening of traditional mask shops following the outlawing of such practises by the 1930s fascist government was warmly welcomed by Venetians, and the traditional mask characters have remained the most popular as a result.

The masks were made from papier-mache or shaped leather and were designed to allow ease of speech, eating and drinking whilst concealing as much as possible of the face, either with depictions of mythical or stock characters, or with finely detailed gilding, colours and shapes which would enhance the beauty of the natural form beneath.

The Bauta outfit is perhaps the most iconic, and includes a black cloak and tricorn hat worn with the white mask, which has a small, pointed nose and an angular, protruding upper lip which distorted the voice, making the wearer's identity even more of a secret. Others were Il Dottore, a decidedly creepy, pale, bespectacled mask with a plague doctor's curved beak, and the Volta, an expressionless, delicate, white face. Highly decorative masks encrusted with jewels, feathers and gold leaf were popular among society ladies.

Ca' Macana was one of the very first mask workshops to open in the 1980s when the tradition was resurrected, and its manufacturing technicques and range (from traditional to innovative) is one of the best. The company's most recent claim to fame was its manufacture of the masks used in 'Eyes Wide Shut', and versions of these are also available to buy online, alongside jesters, autumn leaves, cats, demons and goddesses.

available online here.

Written by  larapiegeler.

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