pictures, history and costumes
The Carnival in Venice is one of of the most beautiful carnivals not only in Italy, but in the whole world.
Unfortunately this year, the 2021, it will be a virtual event, due to covid-19 emergency. Nevertheless there are some people wearing the traditional costumes around, so I might go one of these days.
Luckily I have been there more than once and I have a few pictures and information about the Carnival that I would like to share with you.
But in Venice it hasn’t always been this way…
History of Carnival in Venice
Carnival has very old origins, it probably derives from the Saturnali in Ancient Rome, a time at the end of the month of December when civil rules were temporarly suspended.
It was time of banquets and subversion of the social order: for a few days slaves were free and a princeps was elected and dressed with a mask and bright colors.
A few centuries later, when Venice was administered by the Serenissima Republic, wearing masks and costumes was popular and an ordinary affair.
For instance, the mask was used to go to casino or brothels.
Hidden under the tabarro (a mantel) were often carried arms.
For this reason in 1269 the use of masks and costumes was legally forbidden, allowed only during Carnival.
Bauta (the cocked hat with a mask that was open at the bottom and permitted to eat and talk) and tabarro could be worn at official parties and on national holidays.
In the meantime the Carnival (that lasted from Christmas to Mardi Gras) and Venetian masks became more and more important, and in 1436 was established the statute of mascherari, the artisans that create the masks.
Carnival continued to be a time of transgression, where you could do anything, with the anonymity given by the mask.
In 1700, when Carnival was at its highest, new costumes became popular, those coming from the Commedia dell’arte theatre pieces, and they continue to be among the most popular: Pulcinella, Colombina, Arlecchino, Pantalone.
From 1797, with the end of the Republic of Venice and the invasion of Napoleon first and the Austrian Empire later, the Carnival was suspended and prohibited. Masks could only be worn at private parties.
Carnival was organised again only recently, in 1979.
The carnival today
Nowadays curious and enthusiastic from all over the world come to Venice not only to see the beautiful costumes, but also to wear them.
It is possible to buy or rent a costume in the few ateliers that can still be found in Venice.
Around town you can see many stalls selling cheap masks, but true Venetian masks are made in papier-maché, not plastic, and cost from 30 euro up (they are artisanal works).
Carnival is one of my favorite times to visit Venice; during about two weeks you can see costumes on gondolas, prizes are given to the best masks and all type of events are organized.