Venetian Masks

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Venetian Masks

by Olessia Kantor
Lifestyle Promoting Arts Legends Experiences Italy Venice

Venice… You hear the name, what is your first thought?

Gondolas? Piazza San Marco? Carnival? 

Naturally! It’s all still there, centuries after…

Strolling through winding streets crowded with tourists taking photos of each and every corner, I suddenly realized that masks are the most popular attribute of this floating city. 

Masks depict the inner nature of Venice - gorgeous and queer, perplexing and funny, carnival of shapes and colors – and always intriguing! 
Where did it all begin?

It all started with a gathering at Piazza San Marco to celebrate a victory against the Patriarch of Aquileia - this celebration become a staple during the Renaissance period. The masks were worn almost all the time toward the end of the 17th century, during the time of the Republic. 

The allure of the masks was that the wearer was allowed to become anyone. The nobles, no longer confined by decorum could mingle with anyone they chose. Others would engage in criminal activity, would explore affairs and misbehave. 

The plague doctor mask is one of the most bizarre and recognizable of the Venetian mask styles - a white mask consisting of a hollow beak and round eyeholes covered with crystal discs. Even today, this mask is still paired with a long cape to imitate the beak doctor look.

The masks vary in color, material and shape. Some are hand held, others cover the full face, some are held by the lips rendering the wearer silent. 

But be warned…as Patrick Rothfuss says, “We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.” Do you pretend to be someone you are not?