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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Venice Carnival : Bauta , Larva, Moretta

The Carnival of Venice is one of the most famous in the world. The history of the Venice Carnival is thousands of years old and still retains something magical and mysterious also thanks to the clothes, the masks and the music to which they are coupled.

The mask, in fact, is the ever-present element of my hometown Carnival. They are work of art of very talented and creative Venetian craftsmen and the beauty and the variations of the masks and the costumes that you see in Venice is incredible. 

The history of the traditional Venetian Masks can take pages to be said in details. It has been a tradition that was and still is part of my hometown. "Good Morning Miss Mask", “Buongiorno Siora Maschera”, was the typical greeting used in Venice during the Carnival along the streets and the canals. The reason? Well wearing masks, was offering the chance to hide, at least once a year, your own identity, gender and social class. 

The mask in Venice was so important because it was offering the illusion to everybody that they could be whoever they wanted to be while in Venice. In Venice you were able to be free.

The masks were used not only during the period of Carnival, but they were also permitted on Boxing day, Santo Stefano, during the fortnight of the Ascension and during major events such as official Republic holidays or banquet.

If you look carefully you will recognize some in the variety of costumes and mask some very recurring. Among the typical, old and famous Venetian masks, are certainly the following, and if you look carefully next time you re in Venice for the Carnevale you will see that they are still the most recurring:


The Bauta is to be considered the traditional Venetian mask for excellence. The bauta was also the mask wore by the famous Casanova.

The one mostly used to cover your features, made in a way that it was still possible to eat and drink without having to take it off.

The Bauta was always white, and it was not only a Carnival mask. In old times it could also be used all year long, to protect one's identity. It consisted not only of the mask covering the face, but the finely woven lace, and the black hat with three tips (tricorno).
The name bauta does not have up to now, a definite interpretation: it may came from the German "beh├╝ten"(to protect), as well as from "bau" (or "babau"), typical Italian representation of the monster, or bad beast, used by adults to scare children:
"Se non te fa’ el bravo vien il babau e el te porta via …
(if you do not behave, the “babau” the beast will come over and take you away …)"
In a way, the Bauta was some kind of a social leveler. All ages, all social statuses could get together, all of them wearing a mask and concealing their true identity.
It was mandatory all year long for women who went to the theater and forbidden to girls waiting to be married.
Light and "confortable", because of the narrow nose, the mask sort of modifies the voice pitch, and of course romantic encounters were a lot simplified, this way.

The Bauta was often wore with a coat with a cape called “tabarro”.  
The tabarro was usually in cloth or silk, which doubles over the shoulders and was decorated with fringes, frills and a military bow. His color changed depending on the occasion: black for the Bauta, white or blue for the summer events and scarlet for the gala evenings. It was also used by women: dark in winter and white in summer. Il Tabarro, however, was often also worn to hide weapons, reason why the use of the masks with the Tabarro was banned in some situations. 


Meaning face’  this was a white mask of fine wax cloth with a protruding topology that gave it a three-dimensional, beaklike appearance when viewed from the side. 

It was therefore more comfortable to wear than other varieties, and its simple design, usually accompanied by a three-cornered hat and cloak so as to increase the aura of mystery, made it a very common feature of the Carnival over the centuries. 

Also called "Larva", with the possible meaning of "ghost", as it gives an eerie appearance to the people wearing it, just imagine ... at night, under a full moon ... in those narrow streets ...


Originating in France this mask was mysterious and intriguing: these were probably the reasons of so much success of this mask  in Venice. The Moretta, (meaning "Dark", because of its color) was used by women only. It was an oval mask layered with black velvet often complemented by a similarly black veil. 

This mask  covered the entire face and required the wearer to clasp a small bit between their teeth to keep it secure. This prevented the wearer from talking, yet such muteness tended to add to the mask’s enigmatic allure
The forced silence to which these women were forced especially pleased the male counterparts. It’s said that the Venetian women were known for being too talkative and opinionated.
The mask was also rather uncomfortable, but that's the way fashion has always been.



   There are also a few more traditional masks, with a slightly different origine. You will hear all about it in my next BLOG. 

  From Venice with Love,


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And if you want to join me on the Giada Valenti “From Venice With Love” Cruise on the MSC Musica leaving from Venice on July 9, you can visit to register and more info. If you register before February 14th you can make the chance to win $1000 on a cabin for two and some other prizes.

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