Masks and Venice: an indissoluble bond. The Venice Carnival began on the 26th of December and ended on Shrove Tuesday. It lasted more than two months.
It was the most sumptuous and extravagant carnival in the world, but the amazing thing is that it made up only a part of the period in which mask wearing was permitted.
In fact, it was possible for masks to be worn for most of the year and this happened because aristocracy could impose its own lifestyle as a model for the whole of Venetian society. Those nobles were merchants and adventurers, and so they organized a society that could offer any kind of adventure, even in every-day life.
The fascination for mistery and adventure was strengthened by the use of masks. And so the carnival breaks its boundaries and masks enter the realm of everyday life.
Masks had also a different role.
They are the main characters of “Commedia dell'Arte”, very popular from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The Grotesque characters which wore masks were involved in “numbers” or exhibitions, typical element of this theatrical performance. Still nowadays the ancient technique of “papier mâché ” is meticulously proceeded: we use only our hands and a few simple materials, no chemical substances, almost no tools and absolutely no machinery.
Once clay is moulded, the negative mould made in plaster is filled with several layers of thin paper and then it becomes completely dry. Authentic venetian mask needs to have very specific characteristics: light and flexible, it should mould itself to the shape of the face without breaking.
Decoration is an extremely free process, driven by the inspiration of our masters: tempera, watercolours, gold and silver leaf, laquer, varnish, beeswax and precious fabrics. Typical techniques of absolute artists.