The Venetian mask has a long history stretching back almost 1,000 years. Nobody knows for sure, when or why the tradition of wearing masks began, but there is a lot of speculation. The history and origins of “the mask” is as mysterious as the mask itself. What is acknowledged to be “the truth” by many scholars and historians is that the tradition of mask wearing began in the 13th century, but then again, some say there is evidence of mask wearing as early as 1094. Without a time machine though, we will never know for sure. The tradition of mask wearing went through several different epochs too. For example, during the 18th century you could only wear a mask from the 26 December until Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The tradition of mask wearing came to an end when Napoleon invaded and conquered Venice in 1797, and only enjoyed a resurgence in the 1970s.
The purpose of mask wearing was to eliminate social differences between the classes so that everybody was equal for a certain period during the year. This acted as a kind of steam valve for society at general and is believed to have prevented the lower classes from getting too angry with their superiors and therefore prevented any kind of revolution. Mask wearing also allowed people to engage in otherwise “illegal” or frowned upon activities, such as gambling, and illicit affairs.
The different types of Venetian masks
There are several different types of Venetian masks. Here is a list of the original Venetian masks: the Bauta, the Colombina, the Medico Della Peste, the Moretta or Servetta Muta, the Volto, the Pantalone, the Zanni.
That’s a lot of different types of masks – clearly you really have to know your stuff to understand what they all mean, where they all come, and of course, how to make them! That’s why the mascherari – Venetian mask makers in English – are considered artists. Don’t worry though, everyone can make a homemade Venetian mask! And it’s one of the most fun things to do during this time of the year.
DIY Venetian masks
Venetian masks made by the professional artists can be really expensive. Take this one for example, The Magnificent Sole Luxe, which cost almost a quarter of a million dollars! That’s a bit pricey for most of us. But, of course, we can just make our own paper mache DIY Venetian mask. It’s quite easy. All you need to do is make the paper mache, apply it to your face – after you have let it cool a bit first! Now the mask is the shape of your face, and to strengthen it you add newspaper soaked in paper mache paste.
You can add more layers to the mask to make it even stronger. Once you are satisfied that the mask is durable enough, let it dry, and then decorate however you want! For more in-depth instructions on how to make a DYI Venetian mask you can check out mask decoration guidelines or you can join the Carnival Game and Contest!
The Carnival Treasure Hunt has two Venetian masks for you
As Venice Carnival 2020 approaches you are probably thinking about Venetian masks and DIY Venetian masks. Well, we have a great game for you called the Carnival Treasure Hunt in Venice which consists of a self-guided tour and Carnival Selfie competition. You do a self-guided tour of Venice, taking selfies of yourself at four great locations most tourists have never heard of. Then you go to a local Atelier – an artist mask making studio – show at least 3 pics of of the hidden locations, and you get two masks.
One you can wear immediately, and the other one is white so you can decorate it when you get home. Then you upload two pics of you wearing a Venetian mask onto our facebook page with the hashtag #carnivaltreasure. One pic should be at one of the locations on the self-guided tour, while the other should be of you wearing the white mask that you have decorated con calma at home. Post the pics on our facebook page by the 15 March, and we will announce the winner on 31 March. Sounds like fun right? Go check out all the details at our webpage, and most importantly of all, have a great Venice Carnival.