Monday, 15 October 2012

Venetian Masks..

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This Venetian tradition is most famous for its distinctive masks.
Venezia carnevale 13.jpg
Venezia-maschera carnevale.jpg
The Carnival of Venice (Italian: Carnevale di Venezia) is an annual festival, held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with Lent, forty days before Easter[1] on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Martedì Grasso), the day before Ash Wednesday.



[edit] History

It is said that the Carnival of Venice was started from a victory of the "Repubblica della Serenissima", Venice's previous name, against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico in the year 1162.[2] In the honor of this victory, the people started to dance and make reunions in San Marco Square. Apparently, this festival started on that period and become official in the renaissance. The festival declined during the 18th century.[3]
After a long absence, the Carnival returned to operate in 1979.[4] The Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of their efforts. Today, approximately 3 million visitors come to Venice every year for Carnivals.[5] One of the most important events is the contest for the best mask, placed at the last weekend of the Carnival. A jury of international costume and fashion designers votes for "La Maschera più bella".

[edit] Venetian carnival masks

Masks have always been a main feature of the Venetian carnival.Traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen's Day, December 26) and the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. They have always been around Venice. As masks were also allowed on Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise [3]. Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.
Venetian masks can be made in leather, porcelain or with the original glass technique. The original masks were rather simple in design, decoration, and often had a symbolic and practical function.[6] Nowadays, most of them are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are all hand-painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate.
Masks at the Carnival of Venice. Bauta on the left.

[edit] History

There is very little evidence explaining the motive for the earliest mask wearing in Venice. One scholar argues that covering the face in public was a uniquely Venetian response to one of the most rigid class hierarchies in European history.[7]
The first documented sources mentioning the use of masks in Venice can be found as far back as the 13th century.[8] The Great Council made it a crime to throw scented eggs.[7] The document decrees that masked persons were forbidden to gamble.[9]
Another law in 1339 forbade Venetians from wearing vulgar disguises and visiting nun's convents while masked. The law also prohibits painting one's face, or wearing false beards or wigs.[8]
Near the end of the Republic, the wearing of masks in daily life was severely restricted. By the 18th century, it was limited only to about three months from December 26. The masks were traditionally worn with decorative beads matching in color.

[edit] Types of masks

[edit] Bauta

Bauta (sometimes referred as baùtta) is a mask which covers the whole face; this was a traditional piece of art, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth and lots of gilding. The mask has a square jaw line often pointed and tilted upwards to enable the wearer to talk, eat and drink easily without having to remove the mask, thereby preserving their anonymity. The Bauta was often accompanied by a red cape and a tricorn.
In 18th century, together with a black cape called "Tabarro", the Bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government.[10][11] It was obligatory to wear it at certain political decision-making events when all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers. Only citizens had the right to use the Bauta. Its role was similar to the anonymizing processes invented to guarantee general, direct, free, equal and secret ballots in modern democracies.
It was not allowed to wear weapons along with the mask, and police had the right to enforce this ruling.

[edit] Columbina

The Columbina (also known as Columbine and Columbino) is a half-mask, often highly decorated with gold, silver, crystals and feathers. It is held up to the face by a baton or tied with ribbon as with most other Venetian masks. The columbine was popularised by an early actress in the Commedia dell'arte of the same name. It is said it was designed for her because she did not wish to have her beautiful face covered completely.

[edit] Medico della Peste (The Plague Doctor)

A plague doctor mask.
The Medico della Peste, with its long beak, is one of the most bizarre and recognisable of the Venetian masks. The striking design has a macabre history, originating from 17th-century French physician Charles de Lorme, who adopted the mask together with other sanitary precautions while treating plague victims.[12] The mask is white, consisting of a hollow beak and round eyeholes covered with crystal discs, creating a bespectacled effect.
Today, the masks are often more decorative. The doctors who followed De Lorme's example wore the usual black hat and long black cloak as well as the mask, white gloves and a stick (to move patients without having to come into physical contact). They hoped these precautions would prevent them contracting the disease. Those who wear the plague doctor mask often also wear the associated clothing of the plague doctor. The popularity of the Medico della Peste among Carnival celebrants can be seen as a memento mori.

[edit] Moretta

The Moretta (or Servetta Muta) was a strapless oval mask with wide eyeholes, worn by patrician women. The mask was held in place by the wearer biting on a button or bit and was finished off with a veil. Servetta Muta translates as "mute maid servant". This mask has not been widely worn since 1760.

[edit] Volto (Larva)

The larva, also called the volto mask, is mainly white and typically Venetian. It is worn with a tricorn and cloak. It is thought the word "larva" comes from the Latin, meaning "mask" or "ghost". Like the bauta, the shape of the mask allowed the wearer to breathe, drink and speak easily without having to remove the mask. These masks were made of fine wax cloth, and so were light and comfortable to wear, making them ideal for a night of socializing and dancing.

[edit] Mask-makers

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.

[edit] In popular culture

  • Venetian masks feature prominently in the film Eyes Wide Shut. In the film, the main character (played by Tom Cruise) infiltrates a masked ball where high-ranking individuals engage in secret sex-rituals. Stores that supplied the masks include both Ca' Macana[13] and Il Canovaccio[14] in Venice. The latter displays the original mask worn in the film by Tom Cruise on their website.
  • Carnevale is depicted in the 2009 video game Assassin's Creed II. The main character, Ezio Auditore, is assisted by the artist Leonardo da Vinci in hunting down and assassinating the corrupt Doge of Venice during Carnevale; a golden mask, which Ezio must obtain to enter a private party held by the Doge, plays a significant role in this part of the game.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Tieuli, Michel. "A Short History of Venetian Carnival Masks". Retrieved 13 February 2012.
  2. ^ Carnival History
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Venice Attractions, Carnival
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ Nalesso, Roberta. ""The Maks of Venice". Meeting
  7. ^ a b Johnson, James H. (2011). Venice incognito: masks in the serene republic. p. 54.
  8. ^ a b Janet Sethre, The souls of Venice, 2003. Page 132.
  9. ^ Ackroyd, Peter. Venice: Pure City.
  10. ^ Ignatio Toscani: Die venezianische Gesellschaftsmaske. Ein Versuch zur Deutung ihrer Ausformung, ihrer Entstehungsgründe und ihrer Funktion. Diss. Saarbrücken 1970.
  11. ^ Wiele, Johannes, "Licence to Mask: The Venetian Bauta Mask as a Historical Anonymization Device"
  12. ^ Christine M. Boeckl, Images of plague and pestilence: iconography and iconology (Truman State University Press, 2000), p. 27.
  13. ^ See Pauline Frommer's Italy by Keith Bain, Reid Bramblett, Pippa de Bruyn, William Fink, Barbie Latza Nadeau p. 333
  14. ^ Frommer's Northern Italy: Including Venice, Milan & the Lakes by John Moretti p. 168
I found that these mask makers refer to doing work for, "Eyes Wide Shut".

[edit] External links

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