Venetian costume masks have always been part of the history and culture in Venice. As far back as 1500, Venetian Carnival (known as Mardi Gras to the rest of the world) Venetian masks have set the stage in theater and art. Originally, a Venetian mask (sometimes referred to as Italian mask) were handcrafted in local shops by artists, and no two Venetian masks were exactly the same. Today, handcrafted Venetian costume masks can be found, but are also reproduced in cookie-cutter quantity by manufacturers.
Why Wear a Mask
In Venice, people used to wear fancy dresses and costumes during the carnival period and on several occasions throughout the year. Obviously, the main reason to wear a costume mask is to conceal identity and be unrecognizable. Masks were made in many styles and constructed from several materials. Sometimes, women would wear a black velvet mask to enhance the whiteness of their faces.
The Bauta Mask
A bauta mask of worn by both men and women. A married woman was obligated to wear this mask when going to the theater, but marriage-aged women were not allowed to wear the Bauta mask.
These Venetian costume masks were constructed from a black veil, but could also be white, dark blue, or scarlet color. It was called a small cloak because it covered the neck and shoulders. The mask had a black three-cornered hat and a white face with an enlarged jutting upper lip under a protruding nose that could actually change the tone of the wearer’s voice. The Bauta mask was a favorite of many because they could eat and drink without removing it, which maintained their anonymity.
The Moreta Mask
The Moreta is an oval mask made of black velvet, and used mainly by women. The mask originated in France to be used by women visiting nuns. The mask became popular in Venice because the black color enhanced female facial features and made the skin more attractive. The mask had veils and small hats with large brims. Men named it the ‘dumb’ costume mask because it was kept in place by biting on a small support attached to the mask which prohibited the 納米口罩 wearer from talking.
The Gnaga Mask
The Gnaga is a plain and non-descriptive mask that was used by males to dress up as women. Often, men would imitate the female voice tones and behaviors, which allowed them to hide their homosexuality by wearing this mask that covered just the eyes and nose.
The Pantalone Mask
The Pantalone is the best known Venetian costume mask and was commonly worn by Venetians at celebrations. Pantalone is an old man who could be a rich merchant or a poor ruined businessman, however, either was portrayed by a man with great knowledge of business. The costume is made from woolen Grecian beret, red jacket, tight-fitting white trousers with a sword tied to the belt. A black, red-lined cloak drapes the shoulders, complimented by black Turkish slippers. Typically, the mask has a hooked nose, marked eyebrows and a pointed short beard, caressed and stroked by the wearer.
If you happen to find yourself in Venice during Carnival time, a tasting frenzy awaits you. The fritter (Venetian fritola or Carnival cake) has long been considered the national cake of the Serenissima Republic. This tasty morsel is savored not only in Venice, but as far away as Milan.
Carnival fritters were made exclusively by ‘fritter makers.’ In 1600, these ‘fritter makers’ founded an association consisting of 70 members and established an exclusive right that their children would succeed them and carry on the trade in their geographical area. These corporations continued until the fall of the lagoon Republic when the fritter makers disappeared from the venetian Calli at the end of 1800.