Carnival of Venice
Among Italy’s most beloved carnivals, particular mention goes to the Carnival of Venice.
The first official document with which the Carnival of Venice was declared a public celebration dates back to 1296 – an edict by the Senate of the “most Serene Republic,” making the day before Lent a holiday.
Established by the Venetian oligarchy as a concession to the people, its objective was fun and merrymaking, where the mask dominated as a means to briefly ignore any signs of belonging to social class, gender or religion.
The Carnival of Venice is an annual festival held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. The festival is world-famous for its elaborate masks.
After a long absence, the Carnival returned in 1979. The Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of its efforts. The redevelopment of the masks began as the pursuit of some Venetian college students for the tourist trade.
Since then, approximately 3 million visitors come to Venice every year for the Carnival. One of the most important events is the contest for la maschera più bella which will be judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers.
Masks have always been an important feature of the Venetian carnival. Traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano and the end of the carnival season at midnight of Shrove Tuesday. As masks were also allowed on Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large portion of the year in disguise. Maskmakers enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.
These ovi odoriferi were eggshells that were usually filled with rose water perfume, and tossed by young men at their friends or at young women they admired. However, in some cases, the eggs were filled with ink or other damaging substances.
Types of masks
Several distinct styles of mask are worn in the Venice Carnival, some with identifying names. People with different occupations wore different masks.
The bauta is a mask, today often heavily gilded though originally simple stark white, which is designed to comfortably cover the entire face.
The Colombina is a half-mask, only covering the wearer’s eyes, nose, and upper cheeks. It is often highly decorated with gold, silver, crystals, and feathers.