Saturday, October 2, 2010

Venitian Masks and Carnivale

In 1162 Doge Vitale Michieli triumphed over Ulrich II of Treven and an annual celebration to commemorate the occasion was commenced. The first documented usage of Venetian masks in conjunction with the annual celebration was in 1268.

The merchants don't like you to take pictures of these Masks but I sneaked one in.

As Venice grew in popularity as a tourist destination through the middle ages the city became known as a pleasure palace. During this period the popularity of masks grew as prominent social figures dawned disguises to conceal their identities as they performed unscrupulous and immoral acts in pursuit of carnal pleasures.

During the 16th through 18th century Venetian Masks became the signature of the Commedia Dell'arte. The Commedia Dell'arte were popular plays in the form of improvisational theater that were performed by theater companies that traveled the Italian peninsula producing comedies involving the topics of adultery, jealousy, and love.

Several of Venice's popular mask forms such as the Capitano, the Paglianccio(clown), the Pulcinella (the mascot of Naples), and Zanni (the threadbare old servant of Venice) were shaped in character in the traveling road show known as the Commedia dell'arte.

On October 17, 1797 Venice became part of the Kingdom of the Lombardy-Venetia (Austria). When the Austrians took control of the city masked celebrations were outlawed. :-( Venetian masks faded into obscurity.

The tradition of mask making was not rekindled until 1979 when some undergraduate art students revived the tradition in an effort to profit from the tourism trade in the city. And a successful endeavor it turned out to be. In less than 30 years the artisan profession has flourished and now masks and Venice are synonymous.

The history of the Venetian Mask is nearly as colorful as the masks themselves.  For more information go