Uricchios Trattoria

Uricchios Trattoria

Carnival of Venice – Part 2

Masks Come in Many Varieties

As you know by now the masks of the festival are a key part of tradition and make up probably the most memorable and iconic pictures of the celebration. Despite certain styles being portrayed more often than others, there are actually several different types of masks with widely different origins and each with their own meaning. Nowadays the meaning behind the masks isn’t really as important as the wearing of them, which clearly shows you are a participating member of the festival.

The bauta mask was one of the earlier designs, this mask today is not seen as often as the others which would come to replace it. This mask was usually white or gilded with gold, it has quite a square shape and a protruding triangular chin. This showed just how long people would wear the masks as the design here is intended for the wearer to be able to eat and drink without having to remove the mask and therefore compromise their identity. This mask became so common that it was eventually used in formal situations where anonymous voting was required.

The columbina is dramatically different from the bauta in the fact that its only a half mask. This popular and more elegant disguise was worn often by females even though all of the masks can be worn by both genders. Named after a character from early theatre, this mask is a much more modern creation and is said to have been designed for an actress who didn’t want to hide her beauty entirely during festival times. This mask can be attached by ribbons and tied behind the head as many masks are, or curiously attached to a baton and held up to the face manually. It is thought that this ability to easily reveal the wearer was performed by the most elite who would want their presence to be known. This mask is often confused with the very similar shaped domino mask, which is actually even more revealing, only hiding the surrounding of the users eyes and upper cheeks. Domino masks are commonly seen in movies and comics and are famously worn by heroes such as Zorro and the Green Lantern.

Though mask makers of the past formed a distinct guild and were held in high regard for their skills, today visitors to Venice will find masks at a multitude of stalls and shops all around the city. With varying prices and quality, token souvenir masks can be made from plastic and stylised to depict certain styles of the past or pop culture characters of today. Avid collectors or those looking for something rarer will also discover masks made from leather, porcelain and even glass, which along with being more delicate can come in at prices in the thousands. Its common for masks to be adorned with jewels and decoration and much like the styles of the past, gold leaf is commonly used to coat them. Each year there is still a contest held for the best masked costume and ‘the most beautiful mask’.