Venetian Masks

Venetian masks are an integral part of the Carnevale celebrations that take place every year before Lent. Carnevale in Venice usually lasts for approximately two weeks, beginning two weeks prior to Ash Wednesday and ending on the Tuesday before Lent (known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday). The art of creating the Venice Carnevale masks is a centuries-old craft that has been perfected over the years by some of the most excellent craftspeople of these ornate costume masks. Now when you visit this charming city in northern Italy, you can peak in on the artisans themselves, painstakingly decorating every minute detail of these elaborate masks.

Venetian Masks Carnival
Venetian Masks Carnival

Although creating the Venetian masks ultimately became an art form in and of itself, and nearly all Venice Carnival pictures feature these masks, the original purpose of the masks were to simply hide the identity of the person wearing it. This should not come as too much of a shock as this is the obvious conventional purpose of a mask. The Venice Carnevale masks were originally donned by those individuals who wanted to participate in the festivities and celebrations among people who may not have been in the same class of society as himself or herself. With the protective shielding of the Venice Carnival masks successfully hiding their identities, people felt much freer to interact with anyone at the festivities. Sometimes the Venetian masks were used for illicit activities, but it was probably much more common for them to be used for the purpose of inconspicuous romantic rendezvous.

Carnival Masks
Carnival Masks

It should be noted that, when the end of the Venetian Republic was nearing, the eighteenth-century fascist government outlawed the wearing of any kinds of masks at all. The popularity of the Carnevale season has been ever-changing over the years in Venice, as it is a constant battle between the residents looking to enjoy the more traditional and meaningful aspects of the festivities, and the hundreds of thousands of tourists who descend upon Venice every year for the two-week celebration.

There are several varieties of Venetian masks, all of which you can see being made or even purchase when you visit Venice. There are a number of stores that are located right in the center of the city that are some of the most popular creators of the Venetian masks in the world. One such store created many of the masks that were worn by the cast (including Tom Cruise) of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.

The Bauta Mask is representative of the kinds of Venice Carnival masks that were worn in Eyes Wide Shut. The masks cover the entire face, as opposed to the Columbine masks, which cover only half of the face, and are normally held up by the wearer using a baton. Both styles of masks are oftentimes adorned with silver and gold trimmings, elaborate painted designs, and a variety of feathers and fabrics.

If you have a chance to visit Venice during Carnevale of year and can put up with the droves of tourists, you will see some of the most impressive Venice Carnevale masks, and have some of the most memorable times ever. The entire city is alive with festivities for the duration of the two weeks that the pre-Lenten festival is held, but you can find masks for purchase any time of year.

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