Experiencing Venice’s carnival is something to do at least once in your life. There is nothing quite like it. It’s like waking up in a dream and realizing you are at St. Mark’s square in the eighteenth century. The world has changed outside and change you inside. The colors, laces, appliques, smooth velvet, the beauty of the costumes and the mystery, hidden in the eyes, behind the masks. There is nothing more fascinating than mystery and the wonder in the eyes. Well, It’s carnival! How can we not tell the beauty and the magic within Venice these days?
The origin of Venice’s carnival dates back to 1094 when, for the first time, this term was used to describe public entertainment. But it was in the seventeenth century that the carnival had acquired prestige. Even the nobles wanted to have fun and through the anonymity given by the masks they mixed themselves among the people on the streets. Wearing a mask, they could hide not only their identity but also the sex and social class. So, it was like an opening to an illusory world where everything was possible and allowed. Removing the mask often signaled availability to the approaches of suitors. Each story’s outcome stems from magic.
Masks, symbol of freedom.
The masks became a symbol of freedom. The bauta, worn by women and men, are among the oldest and more traditional ones that never miss a carnival in Venice. It consists of a white mask under a black tricorn hat and a large black coat, named tabard. But that’s not all. There’s no carnival in Venice without Harlequin, Columbina, Cat, Moretta and, of course, my favorite one, the beautiful Pierrot… Ok, I’ll allow myself a teardrop to daydream about that so romantic but unhappy sweetheart!
But the world sometimes proves to be really weird. In 1797 the beauty of Venice’s carnival was banned by Napoleon Bonaparte, after the invasion of Northern Italy. By fearing disorders and rebellions the masks were forbidden. Only almost two centuries later, the party was officially restored, and the tradition of the masks was resumed. Thus, a real trade in masks was set up in Venice.
With the resurgence of the party and the traditions restored, the artisans recovered what seemed forgotten and put forward the business. Nowadays, they work with different techniques and materials and promote courses to teach the art of making masks. They work clay, gypsum, gauze, but the most authentic ones are those made following the ancient tradition, I mean, the handmade ones produced with papier-mâché obtained from scraps of absorbent paper and glue.
To produce the most coveted masks of Venice, the first step is to create a model, and then a mold where the papier-mâché is worked and let dry. Once the mold has been removed it is time to finish the work and enhance it with feathers, beads, drawings, and anything within the realm of imagination. In this case, words don’t do them justice. I’m sure that images have a lot more to tell.
With so many people around there are also those who managed to take a nap.
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