- Posted February 18, 2012 by
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The Carnival of Venice 2012. Masks. © www.noraphotos.com
There is very little evidence explaining the motive for the earliest mask wearing in Venice. It has been argued that covering the face in public was a uniquely Venetian response to one of the most rigid class hierarchies in European history.
The first documented sources mentioning the use of masks in Venice can be found as far back as the 13th century. The mask would permit the wearer to act more freely in cases where he or she wanted to interact with other members of the society outside the bounds of identity and everyday convention. It was useful for a variety of purposes, some of them illicit or criminal, others just personal, such as romantic encounters.
Venetian masks are characterised by their ornate design, featuring bright colours such as gold or silver and the use of complex decorations in the baroque style. Many designs of Venetian masks stem from Commedia dell'arte. They can be full-face masks (e.g. the bauta) or eye masks (e.g. the Columbina).
It is said that the Carnival of Venice was originated from a victory of the "Repubblica della Serenissima", Venice previous name, against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico in the year 1162. 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. After a long absence, the Carnival return to operate in 1979. 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 3,000,000 visitors come to Venice each day for Carnivals. (source: Wikipedia)