It’s me again, Monica, one of the BestVeniceGuides!
I would like to invite you to Venice to introduce to you the marvellous world of the Venetian Masks!
You probably already know that in Venice we celebrate one of the most famous Carnivals in Europe… but the history of masks goes beyond the Carnival.
The Masks of the Art Comedy
In the past centuries, masks were frequently used at the theatre, on the stage, in order for the spectators to identify, even from a distance, particular characters, such as Harlequin, Colombina, Pulcinella… Such masks were normally made out of leather.
Interesting enough, actors would not learn their lines by heart, they would instead improvise them, simply following some approximate guidelines.
Masks in everyday life
Some masks were used also in everyday life, in particular in the 1700’s.
The most famous mask was definitely the so called Bauta: it consisted of a white mask, called larva, which would be inserted into a three pointed hat worn over a black silk hood.
The particular shape of the larva allowed people to eat and drink without having to take off their masks. Moreover, it would also modify the person’s voice, thus making him or her absolutely unrecognisable! After all, the main aim of a mask should be concealing the identity of the person wearing it!
If the Bauta could be worn both by men and women, the Moretta was exclusively a female mask. Entirely black, it would be kept on the lady’s face through a little button that the lady would bite! This meant that the woman wearing this mask could not eat nor drink, and couldn’t even talk! Quite difficult to wear, I suppose… but this mask had a particular charm, being so intriguing, silent, mysterious…
Wearing the Bauta or the Moretta you could go for a walk, or to the theatre, to the market, to the casino, or simply to your friends’ house. The mask was a needed accessory. Hiding their identity, people felt some sort of freedom of expressing thoughts and feelings… however, sometimes masks could also give the chance to make awful practical jokes without being punished…
This mask is incredibly famous! It was not something you would wear at Carnival! This mask was used by the doctors during epidemics. Within that long beak the doctor placed herbs and spices, with the aim of filtering the air and not to catch the disease. Moreover, the length of the beak prevented the doctor from bending too close to the patient, keeping some sort of safety distance.
Well, I think I would have died not because of the plague, but because I would be scared to death by such a doctor! Don’t you agree?
Would you like to know more about masks, theatre and Carnival in Venice? Come and join me for a special treasure hunt: we will hunt for the joking masks!
I will be waiting for you! We’ll have fun!
And don’t forget to bring along your parents! We will need their help… an they will have a lot of fun, too!