MASK TYPES AND HISTORY
History Of Venetian Mask
The history of the Venetian Mask is as colorful as the masks themselves.
The first documented sources mentioning the use of masks in Venice can be found as far back as the 13th century. The making and wearing of Italian masks became so widespread that mask-makers had their own official artisan status in Italy since the 15th century. During the 16th through 18th century Venetian Masks became the signature of the Commedia Dell’arte (the Comedy of Artists). The Commedia Dell’arte was popular plays in the form of improvisational theater that were performed by theater companies.
From the 15th century through the 18th century, the Venetians actually wore masks as a part of their every day life.
Famous Italian Masks
ColombinaIn Italian, Colombina means “little dove” and the character. The Colombina mask only covers the eyes. This mask can either be tied on with a ribbon or held in place with a decorated stick attached to the side of the mask. Today these masks are frequently worn at masked balls and masquerade balls, as they enable the wearer to eat and drink easily. They are popular with both men and women.
BautaThe Bauta mask was introduced in the 16th Century and was worn by the upper classes in Venetian society. It’s been said that Bauta was Casanova’s favorite mask. The Bauta mask covers the whole face, with a stubborn chin line and no mouth. A feature of the Bauta is that it conceals the identity but enables the wearer to talk and eat or drink easily.
VoltoThe Volto, also called the Larva mask, is mainly white and typically Venetian. It is thought the word “larva” comes from the Latin, meaning, “mask”. Today’s Volto masks have evolved a little and now the Volto usually refers to a full-face mask, which allows the artist to fully decorate the mask.
A Medico della Peste maskThe Medico della Peste, with its long beak, is one of the most and recognizable of the Venetian masks. The striking design has a macabre history, originating from 17th-century French physician Charles de Lorme, who adopted the mask together with other sanitary precautions while treating his patients. Those who wear the plague doctor mask often also wear the associated clothing.
Capitano Scaramouche MaskThe Capitano Scaramouche is typically a half mask, covering the forehead, eyes and it has a long and pointy nose. Capitano portrays a young man of adventure or a quite old sailor who tells unbelievable and extraordinary tales about how he beat a whole army of Turks, but when there was a hint of real danger he was the first to run away.
Gatto MaskThe cat or Gatto mask resembles a cat face, with little ears at the top of the mask. Cats were scarce in the old Venice and some believe this was one of the main reasons that the cat mask became very popular. Legend has it that a poor man from China man who owned nothing but his cat came to Venice. The cat hunted all the palace’s mice and the man was rewarded very generously and became rich.
ZanniZanni is one of the most recognizable characters of Commidia Dell’arte, best known as a servant with acrobatic abilities. The mask became popular in the 14th century. Zanni character comes from the countryside of Venice as a simple-minded worker or servant.