What is a Venetian Masquerade Mask

Venetian style masquerade masks trace their roots to Venice, Italy, and the famous Venetian masquerade carnival. For centuries artisans in Venice have created exquisite masks that are considered works of art. These masks symbolize the city's history and culture and have attracted countless visitors to Venice. 

Venetian Carnival and Masquerade Masks

Venetian masks were originally worn during the Venice Carnival, proceeding the observance of Lent by Christians. This carnival dates back to the 13th century and continues on to this day. The wearing of the masquerade masks, allowed for anonymity and the suspending of the social class structure, allowing people from all walks of life to mingle and express themselves without judgment. At this time people were able to take part in activities that would not otherwise be allowed during the strict social structure of the time because their identity was hidden.

Venetian Mask Aristans

The artisans who created Venetian masquerade masks were called "mascherari". They created ornate masks made of paper mache and decorated with paint and gold leaf in various styles. These artists were dedicated to their craft and used methods of mask-making passed down over the centuries. Today in Venice, you can still find many mask makers using traditional techniques to create true works of art.

Venetian Mask Styles

In Venice, you can find a variety of masquerade mask styles. Each Venetian mask style has its own characteristics and meaning. There is the "Bauta" mask (link to one and or image), it has a rectangular shape with a short beak around the mouth allowing the wearer to speak and eat while hiding the wearer's identity. The "Bauta" mask is usually masculine in design and decoration. The "Columbina" mask was feminine in design. It is decorated with feathers and bright colours. The is also the "Volto" mask that covers the entire face and would often be custom-made to fit the wearer.

Contemporary Masquerade Masks

Venetian masks are still primarily used for masquerade balls which have become a popular theme for parties. In Venice, there is still the annual carnival which attracts tourists from all around the world. But Venetian masks have also become collectible as well, used in home decor, or purchased as souvenirs. Venetian style masquerade masks are produced in many places around the world today and can be made of a variety of materials, making them relatively inexpensive compared to the handmade masks found in Venice.