Aristocratic Carnival of Venice

The Carnival of Venice is an annual festival, held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival starts starts 40 days before easter and ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. The origins of the Carnival date back to the year 1296, when the Senate made the carnival official and declaring the day a public holiday. Masks are a central feature of the Venetian Carnival and the streets of the city is full of people with different varieties of colourful masks.

The word carnival possibly comes form the Latin carnem levare or carnelevarium which means to take away or remove meat. As Lent begins obliged people to fast, during the period up to Ash Wednesday all meat, butter and eggs had to be used up. The history of the Venice Carnival tradition began after 1162. This celebration gradually grew and 1268 dates the first document mentioning the use of masks.

Masks made the Venetian Carnival unique. If you cannot identify the wearer of the mask, you do not know his social status.Masks were used in the past so that no distinction could be made between the nobility and the common people and all could participate in the fun. Generally, the costume worn was a cloak with a long-nosed mask. Also popular were masked couples, where a man and a woman would dress as allegorical characters.

Bauta (sometimes referred to as baĆ¹tta) is the whole face, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth, and lots of “gilding”. One may find masks sold as Bautas that cover only the upper part of the face from the forehead to the nose and upper cheeks, thereby concealing identity but enabling the wearer to talk and eat or drink easily. In 18th century, the Bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government.

The “Volto” was the more common mask used in Venice for centuries. Volto means “face”, and it was the simplest mask to produce. The mascherari, or mask-makers had their own statute dated 10 April 1436. They belonged to the fringe of painters and were helped in their task by sign-painters who drew faces onto plaster in a range of different shapes and paying extreme attention to detail.

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