Everything you need to know about Venetian masks
one thing in Venice
that’ll keep tourists window shopping, it’s the carnival masks. With originals
being decorated with animal skins, fabric, jewels and striking coloured
feathers, the masks are a real visual magnet.
of Venetian masks goes back to the Roman times, but their real moment of glory
came during the 18th century. Although these days we associate them
with the carnival, in the old times they were used during various occasions
throughout the year, such as when going to the theatre or attending official
parties. The masks guaranteed anonymity, so were perfect for allowing
aristocrats to mingle with peasants and even for taking part in conspiracies or
attending secret romantic encounters.
Types of Venetian mask
shops, you can find many different kinds of masks, but some traditional models
are repeated more often than others. These are some of the most typical
Bauta – A
white mask with a prolonged point under the nose that covers the mouth. Goes
with a black cape, a three-peaked hat and a tunic. Represents mystery, intrigue
Of French origin, this oval-shaped, black-velvet mask covers the face
completely. Often accompanied by veils and hats, this mask is for female use
Peste – Originally used by doctors who attended to victims of the plague. To
avoid contagion and so as not to have to endure the stench of the disease, they
wore these masks with glass eyepieces and a large beak in which to stuff
perfumed tissues and herbs.
Other popular Venetian masks are those which come
from the Comedia dell’Arte, a theatrical genre based on improvisation which is
protagonised by characters like Harlequin, stingy old Pantalone, the adventurer
Polichinela, Doctor Balanzone and Colombina.
Where to buy Venetian masks
street and souvenir shops, masks which are often of very basic quality are sold
for 15€ - 20€. Authentic Venetian masks, however, are something else entirely.
Works of art, they are made from papier-mâché, painted by hand and involve an
enormous amount of work. To give a rough guideline, their price can oscillate
between 30€ and 200€, depending on how complicated their design is. These are
some of the best shops for mask buying in Venice:
La Bottega dei Mascareri – This is one of the
best-known mask-buying shops in Venice.
Here, the masks that appeared in the Stanley Kubrick film “Eyes Wide Shut” were
made. Where: San Polo 80, Ponte di Rialto.
Ca’ del Sol
– Offers a wide variety of costumes and traditional masks at very reasonable
prices. They also hold courses on Venetian mask-making. Where: Fondamenta dell'
Osmarin, Castello 4964.
Artigiano Maschere – Another of the most famous and oldest workshops in Venice. Some of their
designs are genuinely surprising. Where: Barbaria delle Tole, Castello 6657.
– This shop specialises in the costumes, masks and figures from the Commedia
dell’Arte, although you’ll find lots more here as well. Where: Sestiere San Polo, 2874.
Laura - Marketing Team