In 2013, the Carnival of Venice takes place between February 2nd and February 14th.
If you’re planning to go, then do be sure to attend the Grand Ball, where the famous Venetian Masks are a must.
The festival usually begins two weeks before Shrove Tuesday ( ‘Martedì Grasso’ in Venice), the day before Ash Wednesday.
The origins of the Carnival can be traced to the 12th century and the victory of the “Republica della Serenissima” (Venice was once an independent Republic), in the war against Ulrico, Patriarch of Aquileia, in the year 1162.
To celebrate this victory, annual reunions began to take place in Piazza San Marco and grew in popularity and numbers with each passing year.
The modern Carnival of Venice was resurrected in 1979 following a ban by Mussolini in the 1930’s.
It is believed that Venetian masks were originally worn to conceal the status of the wearer within the strictly hierarchical structure of Venetian society. They also allowed for anonymous flirting and gambling and in centuries gone by, were worn throughout much of the year. Unfortunately this anonymity encouraged immorality and debauchery which led to the imposition of severe restrictions on their use.
Masks are a must at the Masked Grand Ball (Gran Ballo Mascheranda), held each year at the Palazzo Pisani Moretta.
Among the most famous types of mask are the Bauta, Columbina, Medico della Peste and Volto (Larva).
The Bauta mask is one of the oldest of the Venetian masks. It was used by both men and women and not just at carnival time. For instance, it was compulsory for women in the 18th ceentury to wear the mask when they went to the theatre.
When worn with a black cape called the ‘Tabarro’, the Bauta was also a standardized apparel regulated by the Venetian government. It was obligatory to wear it at certain political events when all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers. Only citizens of Venice had the right to use the Bauta.
The Bauta mask is designed with a jutting beaked front so its wearer can both eat and drink whilst still wearing the mask.
Wearers were not allowed to carry weapons along with the mask, and police had the right to enforce this ruling.
Another half-mask with a ghoulishly exaggerated nose, Dottore Peste differs from the Scaramouch in that its nose is conventionally not only wider but also curved downwards like beak, and whereas the latter mask covers the cheekbones, the Plague Doctor only covers the forehead. Its name and peculiar form originates from the 16th Century and the unusual practices of a French physician by the name of Charles de Lorme, who would wear a full face mask with a hollow beak while treating plague sufferers.
The Doctor is the local aristocrat, and/or doctor of medicine or law or anything else he claims to know about, which is most things. Extremely rich, he adores food and good wines, thus he is a little round. He is typically depicted as an elderly man who only knows nonsense. He makes many cruel jokes about the opposite sex and believes that he knows everything about everything. His costume is usually all or mostly black, sometimes with a white collar. He frequently wears a hat, and long, trailing robes
Meaning ‘ghost’ and ‘face’ respectively, this was a white mask of fine wax cloth with a protruding topology that gave it a three-dimensional, beaklike appearance when viewed from the side. It was therefore more comfortable to wear than other varieties, and its simple design, usually accompanied by a three-cornered hat and cloak so as to increase the aura of mystery, made it a very common feature of the Carnival over the centuries