Carnival starts on January 27th and ends on February13th.Most of the masks, you will meet on the streets and squares in Venice, are very different from the old-fashioned ones thatcharacterized the past. However, a distinctive feature of theVenetian mask is still present, the ability to conceal the owner’s identity. For this reason, the wearer was greeted in the followingmanner: ‘Good morning Siora Mascara’, that is ‘Good morning Mrs Mask’.
Different masks you can find in shops
People dressed up and pretended to be someone else duringCarnival. People had fun, broke rules and reversed their roles in society. Because of this, in 1268 the Republic of Venice decided to limit and control the inappropriate and excessive uses ofmasks. Many other laws meant to protect public order were passed, and were modeled on that law. For instance, both men andprostitutes were not allowed to wear masks when enteringbrothels.
The’ Bauta, Gnaga, Moretta, and Volto’ masks are the most significant and traditional ones. They are different from masks representing theatrical figures like’ Pantalone, Colombina, and Arlecchino’, that emerged later with the ‘Commedia dell'Arte’.
The ‘Bauta’ was the only costume that could be worn at all timesin Venice. The term itself implied identity protection and it was formed by four pieces: a tricorn hat, a white mask, a veil and a mantle. The white mask known as ‘larva’ completely hid the wearer’s face and preserved his identity, while he was speaking,eating and drinking. The tricorn hat or black hat was worn on thehead, which was covered by a black veil called ‘zendale’, and a black cloak, a ‘tabarro’, served as an accessory especially when it was cold. Regarded as the queen of Venetian masks, the ‘Bauta’was an extremely elaborate costume, made with different materials depending on whom bought the outfit.
The bauta costume
Women used to wear the ‘Moretta’, an oval black mask, usuallymade of velvet. At first, women who visited nuns would wear it,but later in time it was also worn during Carnival. It was a silentor mute mask because ladies had to keep a button in their mouthto hold it. During balls they danced without speaking. Women were supposed to play a traditional Venetian game of seduction,during which they revealed their true identity to their admirer, when they decided it was the right time.
If you wore a mask you couldn't be arrested for acting. Mendressed like women and wore masks depicting cats. This type of mask was known as’ Gnaga’. Men, who put on this mask posedas an ordinary woman, meowed during a conversation andmocked passers-by, and usually carried a basket with a kitten.
On the other hand, the ‘Volto’, a traditional Venetian’ papiermaché’ mask, was shaped like a face and covered the wearer ‘sentire face. Even today itis still the most popular mask to wearwith an outfit.
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