The history of Venetian masks

The Venetian Masks

The origin of Venetian masks

The origin of the Venetian masks is shrouded in mystery, in fact there is no precise date in which the traditional papier-mâché masks began to be produced, however there are equally important dates.

The first, dated 1268, represents the oldest law limiting the improper use of masks: the decree forbade the so-called mattaccini , the game of "ova" or the art of dressing up and throwing eggs filled with rose water at the ladies who were walking for the city.

The other historical date is instead 1436 , the year in which the mascareri celebrate their first statute.

In those years the production was very intense, thanks above all to the Carnival, a moment of great celebrations in the Republic of the Serenissima . In fact, during the weeks dedicated to the party, every Venetian could escape from his social status and his gender, to dress up and feel free from all the social norms that the Republic imposed. The transgression and lightheartedness of those moments involved everyone, even the clergy, very often the protagonist of scandalous elopements.

However, the use of masks became too immoral and dangerous, and the Serenissima gradually began to ban their use in sacred places, in foyers and casinos (places where gambling was permitted) where very often debtors disguised themselves so as not to be recognized.

What were the first masks used in Venice?

The Venetian mask Bauta or Baùtta was a very common disguise, not only at Carnival but also at the theater and on the occasion of elegant parties. The mask also called Larva even allowed you to eat and drink without having to remove it, thanks to its angular and elongated shape.

Another very famous costume was the Gnaga , or rather a women's disguise for men, with female clothes and often a cat mask. The Gnaga sometimes acted as a wet nurse, with other men dressed as children or women of the people, emitting meows and shrill screams.

The most frequent mask among women was instead the Moretta , a small oval mask in dark velvet, held up in the mouth thanks to a button which, however, made it silent. It was often combined with a cap and elegant clothes.

Other masks were introduced later, an example is that of the famous Doctor of the plague or Doctor of the plague , this mask was in fact used first as a real tool to prevent the contagion of diseases.

What are Venetian masks traditionally made of?

Venetian masks can be made from leather, porcelain. The original masks were quite simple in design, decoration and often had a symbolic and practical function. In any case, the masks must be made in paper machè or papier machè . Certainly they must not be printed in China as they are sold today in many shops in Venice.

What do Venetian masks symbolize?

Venetian masks have a long history of protecting the identity of the wearer during promiscuous or decadent activities. ... Eventually, Venetian masks re-emerged as the emblem of Carnival (Carnevale veneziano) , a procession and street fair celebrating hedonism. Venetian masks have been worn in Venice, Italy since ancient times.

Who wears Venetian masks?

These historic wonders are an age-old tradition of Venice, Italy. Masks are typically worn during Carnival (Carnevale di Venezia) , but have been used on many other occasions in the past, usually as a device to conceal the identity and social status of the wearer.

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