Venetian Mask Society

Wearing venetian masks has become a renewed tradition. Today, elaborate and detailed masks have evolved from the simple and practical venetian mask of the early carnival celebration days.

The masquerade masks, or venetian masks, first became a highlight after Venice was involved in a religious war in 1162. The northern states of Venice were threatened for supremacy. However, the states remained undefeated so this was a cause for celebration. The people of Venice gathered at the San Marco Square singing and dancing, celebrating their victory. As a result, the Carnival of Venice was established to honor Venice’s freedom. It was at this carnival that the people of Venice decorated their faces with simple masks. These venetian masks usually symbolized their culture. However, in 1797 a new ruler banned the carnival as well as wearing the venetian masks.

Once again, masks appeared on the faces of party goers in Venice as carnivals were reintroduced in 1979. In an effort to revive the history of this northern Italian city, the Italian government began promoting the customs and traditions of Venice. The focal point of these customs and traditions was the carnival and mask wearing. The making of masks became widespread and popular for the carnival. Each year on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday during Lent, the carnival ends. Approximately three million people attend this carnival.

Adding to interest of Venice’s festivities at the carnival is a contest of “the most beautiful mask”. Those wishing to wear a mask at the carnival will visit mask shops that have become so prevalent since this renewal of Venice’s history. The mascherari, or mask-makers, create masks using various materials. For instance, they will use plaster, glass, porcelain, leather, paper mache’, or wax cloth. Each mask is painted in detail with gesso and goldleaf and garnished with beads, gems, feathers and other decorations. For those who are crafty or would like to make their own mask, that can be done as well! Visit http://www.venetianmasksociety.com/ for helpful directions on making your own mask.

Not only is the venetian mask an important feature for the carnival, but a whole costume has become just as important. Usually, the costume is a cloak, cape or gown, and compliments the full look. Near the end of the carnival, the contest draws to a close and the judging begins. Judges are international costume and fashion designers.

Venetian masks continue to be part of Venice’s history.