Every year, Venice receives many visitors with a huge chunk coming to witness and participate in the Venice Carnival. Touring Venice during this time is all about participating in a very beautiful and magnificent event. There are people covered in mysterious Venice masks who will be eying you as you walk about the city’s streets. This is all in an effort to relive what we believe was Venice three centuries ago. The carnival is one of the most popular of its kind not only in Italy, but in Europe and the entire world as well. It is all about reliving Venice as they did in the 18th century.
While many people think that wearing of the Venetian masks is just a fun thing Venetians choose to do, this is not the case. The tradition is at the core of the people and it is highly respected by many Venetians who know and understand its significance.
In the 18th century, the people of Venice had a reputation for being transgressors and libertines as well. The masks were therefore not used merely for celebrating the Carnival. Donning on the mask during those days meant that one could participate in liberties that had been forbidden. These included jibing at the most powerful people in the society, take part in gambling without being arrested, risk in love and business deals or in some situations, enter into agreements and deals without your true identity being uncovered. There was some legislation that had been passed regarding the issue of dressing show just how prevalent the habit was.
In the year 1608, a law was passed by what was known as the Council of the Ten. This law prohibited the donning of masks at all times. The only exception that was placed on this law was during official banquets and also during the Carnival. The wearing of masks was also approved of on important celebrations of the Serenissima. These celebrations included Ascension Day, which is also known as the day the Bucintoro was climbed by the Doge. There is also the day during which a certain bird made of wood showered the crowd with flowers. This day was also included as one on which Venetians could put on masks. Poor members of noble families used to wear masks when they went to beg in the streets of Venice. Married women were also required to put on masks during those times when they went to the theater to watch plays.
The Carnival was a time during which Venetians were to let go of all their fatigue and life problems and indulge as much as they could. They had the freedom to engage in transgressions and any form of madness in a good will. The largest of palaces in Venice on this day opened their gates and welcomed people to participate in celebration. Music and dancing went on all day and all night long in small city squares, the alleyways as well as on water. During this time Venice was lit up with color and sound.
There was a particular type of mask which the Venetians would spend a lot of money on. This mask was called the ’˜Bauta’. It was like a black mantle that dropped across the shoulders on to the waist. The ’˜Tricorno’, which was a three cornered black hat, was worn on the head. On the faces, another type of mask, called the ’˜larva’ was worn. This type of mask had the effect of altering the voice of its wearer. The ’˜Bauta’ was uni-sexual. It was worn by women as well as men. Its color depended on the season of the year. It was white during the summer and black in winter.
Different occasions also had different type of masks. There was an oval mask made of black velvet called the ’˜Moretta’. This was mainly donned by women, specifically those who visited convents. The distinguishing feature of this mask was that it served the purpose of preventing the wearer from speaking. It had a button which entered the mouth of the wearer to prevent her from speaking.
The name ’˜Mascareri’ was given to the people who created these masks. These people usually dabbled as painters. The ’˜Targheri’ were their assistants and they painted people’s faces with various types of things on plastered surfaces.
The tradition is not dead. Today there are shops that are still selling such crafts around Venice, Italy in an effort to renew this old tradition.
After reaching its climax during the 18th century, there were little happenings of the Carnival. However, new life was breathed into it in the 1980s. In the present days, it can last upto a whole month. Several events take place during this time including music, balls, shows and plays that occur all over the city. Usually, over a million people take part in the event. These people usually compete to show off the magnificent and usually the expensive costumes that they wear.
The Carnival is the time during which Venice comes as close to what it was in the 18th Century. You can ride in a gondola with an imaginary Carlo Goldoni or you could accidentally bump into Giacomo Cassanova in the Venetian streets.All About The Venice Carnival,