Carnival Masks – Venice

Venetian Carnival masks were originally made of papier-mâché, but these days you can find leather ones as well. The original masks were much simpler in design and decoration and they often had a symbolic and practical function. Nowadays, most masks are made Venetian Carnival Masks, Venicewith the application of gesso and gold leaf and are mostly all hand-painted and decorated with natural feathers and gems. You can buy mass-produced cheap masks in the tourist shops in Venice today and these have nothing to do with the original Venetian masks. If you want a good souvenir, go for one of the genuine ones and there are lots to choose from.

These are the different types of masks:

Bauta mask, VeniceThe Bauta is a mask which covers the whole face, with a sharp chin line and no mouth. You may find masks sold as Bautas that cover only the upper part of the face from the forehead to the nose and upper cheeks. Whilst concealing the identity of the wearer, it also enables the person to talk, eat or drink easily. This tends to be the main type of mask worn during the Carnival. Masks like this were also used on many other occasions as a means for hiding the wearer’s identity and social status. This allows the wearer to breach social classes and convention and to intermingle with whomever he or she chooses to mix with. Whilst masks can be useful in pursuit of romantic encounters or to create mischief and amusement, they could also be used for illicit or criminal activities as well. I wonder if there’s an increase in the crime rate at Carnival?

The Moretta is an oval mask of black velvet that was usually worn by women visiting convents. It orginated in France and rapidly became popular in Venice as it brought out the beauty of feminine features. The mask was finished off with a veil.

Larva or volto mask, VeniceThe Larva, also called the volto mask, is predominantly white, and typically Venetian. It is worn with a tricorn and cloak. The word ‘larva’ was of Latin derivation and was also used for a terrifying mask. Imagine the scary sight of a Venetian all dressed in black with a white mask and a black tricorn, flying past in the moonlight. Like the bauta, the shape of the mask allowed the bearer to breathe and drink easily, thus preserving the wearer’s anonymity at all times. These masks were made of fine wax cloth and being much lighter, they were ideal for wear as they allowed one to eat, dance or flirt.

So next time you go past a mask shop, see if you can find the different types.



  1. Comment by joe

    cooool stuff

  2. Comment by Akis

    Greece’s 4th biggest city has just launched a planet-wide internet channel to show off the biggest event of the year – a first for any city in the world!

    The Patras Carnival is the largest such event in Greece and one of the biggest carnivals in Europe with more than 160 years of history.

    Our carnival is not a single event but a variety of events that includes balls, parades, treasure hunt game, kids’ carnival and more.

    The high point is the last weekend (5th and 6th of March) with the Saturday evening parade of carnival groups, the extravagant Sunday parade of floats and groups, and finally the ritual burning of King Carnival at the St. Nikolaos Street wharf in the harbour of Patras.

    This year an enlightened organization committee the PCPWME * are pleased to announce a WORLD WIDE FIRST – an initiative that will allow anyone with access to the internet across our whole planet to watch and join in the festivities.

    The Patras Carnival web channel is already broadcasting extracts of older and more recent Carnival events.

    Friends of the carnival will be informed about the activities of the carnival from the Carnival Press news channels on the site, culminating in three internet LIVE broadcasted carnival events:

    Don’t miss!!!

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