Venetian Masks

I was looking at centuries old traditional piece of art, piece of Venice. So many of them all in rich colors, designs and forms. I was dazzled, completely in awe handling them, trying to look through them. I am referring to the Venetian masks. Most of them were paper mache ones, very light to hold, some slightly heavier, some with long colorful feathers, there seemed to be no end to the creativity in these pieces, no repetition in looks.


The history of these Venetian masks is equally colorful. The earliest recorded use of these masks was in 1268 during the annual celebrations of victory of the rulers then. But soon these masks were donned by prominent social figures and peasants to disguise themselves to perform unscrupulous acts, gambling. One document even describes the the practice of masked men throwing scented eggs at ladies and its prohibition by the council (Venetian Laws, 1268 May).



This art slipped into a brief oblivion from 1797 when Venice became a part of Austria. And thanks to the entrepreneurship in some undergraduate art students in 1979, the tradition was revived. Venice always was a popular tourist destination, and these masks are sought after souvenirs by most tourists. The forgotten art flourished once again.

The friendly salesman with his rough knowledge of English showed me the various types of these masks and that was a surprise for me.
– The one that covers the whole face, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth, and lots of gilding was Bauta.
– The half mask highly decorated with gold, silver, crystals and feathers, held up to the face by a baton or tied with ribbon as with most other Venetian masks was Columbine.
– The Medico Della Peste with its long beak is one of the most bizarre and recognizable of the Venetian masks.
Moretta, popular in Venice with feminine features such as the female head. The mask is held in place by the wearer biting on a button or bit and was finished off with a veil.
– The white mask is the Larva, also called the Volto mask.

Whew! And I thought they were all the same!


Have fun clicking, enlarging the shots and identifying the various types of Venetian Masks.

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36 Responses

  1. Carver says:

    I love masks and this is such a wonderful collection of beautiful and interesting ones. I enjoyed the history of them too.

  2. Sylvia K says:

    What a terrific collection of masks! I love them, too! And thanks as always for the history — it makes them all the more interesting and beautiful! Have a wonderful week, Indrani!

    Sylvia

  3. Anya says:

    Very interesting
    the history behind the masks 😉
    When I was in Venice
    we bought also masks
    (I chose a Cat mask and my youngest daughter a dark red one with a long golden nose hehe… looks very funny !!)

    Nice shots Indrani 🙂

  4. I love masks like these!
    Great to hear the story of them too.

  5. ewok1993 says:

    I love masks too. I could get lost there enjoying all the craftsmanship each mask has. Thanks for sharing this post.

  6. Mojo says:

    A fascinating collection! I'm not sure I'd like having to hold my mask on with my teeth for the duration of a masquerade party, but to each his own. These are beautiful, it's good that the art was revived!

  7. ewok1993 says:

    I love masks too. I could get lost there enjoying all the craftsmanship each mask has. Thanks for sharing this post.

  8. EG Wow says:

    There sure are tons of masks on that wall. I guess adults as well as kids enjoy pretending they are someone else once in a while.

  9. noel says:

    aloha,

    i'm enjoying what you are posting today from your world, love exploring venice and going into these beautiful mask shops, they are amazing how much workmanship is involved with these.

    thanks for sharing this and have a great week!

  10. Yhe masks are beautiful, real artworks.

  11. Very interesting history and the revival of the masks came in '79…so recent, actually. They are quite amazing and I really like your captures.

  12. Those are gorgeous masks especially the first one. Very creative indeed. Venice is such a fascinating place to just get lost!

  13. Martha Z says:

    They do make great souvenirs, I bought one when we visited Venice.

  14. Janie says:

    Theses are beautiful works of art. I really like the first mask, in particular.

  15. Anu says:

    they are just too beautiful! what work! and had no idea there were so many kinds!

  16. Lakshmi says:

    very intersting shop windows out there with masks..in fact I bought one too ..i wanted to be there during the carnival

  17. ladyfi says:

    Astounding masks – and some are even pretty scary.

  18. Joyful says:

    Thanks for the interesting lesson on these beautiful masks. I've often wondered about the meaning of the masks. I will need to read the post again and perhaps more than once. 🙂

  19. Hi Indrani
    le nostre maschere veneziane sono veramente meravigliose 🙂
    Grazie della visita 🙂

  20. Wolynski says:

    Who knew? Boy, you're having a wonderful Italian adventure. Great photos.

  21. slommler says:

    Love the masks and the history lesson as well!! Amazing!
    Hugs
    SueAnn

  22. Regina says:

    Very interesting! Lovely masks and captures.

  23. radha says:

    The masks are lovely. Interesting post.

  24. Lovely masks. I liked the second picture more 🙂

  25. Titanium says:

    Beautiful! The intricate detail and vivid colors are fascinating. Thanks for sharing this journey with us, through your camera lens.

    It's simply amazing.

  26. Rajesh says:

    Beautiful masks and they are so colorful.

  27. It's delightful catching up on your blog Indrani, and I can see what a lovely time you had.
    Come over, and celebrate a birthday with me, won't you? 😉

  28. The masks are vibrant and eye-catching. Excellent shots! I envy you
    Neena

  29. Babli says:

    Amazing and wonderful collection of masks. I liked all of them. Very nice and interesting so see such beautiful masks.

  30. Onkar says:

    Such a lovely collection, backed by sound research.

  31. Definitely eye-catching masks . Fun to wear too and I wouldn't mind hiding behind one!

  32. scary, but I liked them 🙂

  33. Haddock says:

    Some of the masks look scary.

  34. JO says:

    those are really beautiful masks… are they hand crafted?

    Jo's Precious Thoughts

  35. YOSEE says:

    They look magnificent ! The first picture is just gorgeous !
    I love masks in general and Venetian masks in particular.
    I saw one workshop there where they were handmade and another "factory" where the plaster ones were pressed out of moulds.

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