City of Masks

James H. Johnson

in Venice Incognito

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267718
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948624 | DOI:
City of Masks

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This chapter discusses the practice of donning masks in Venice. In the eighteenth century masks were the norm in Venice, and they were worn beyond the carnival season for occasions that were far from festive. Against the common notion held by visitors that masks were associated with carnival and that Venetians celebrated carnival for six months a year, the masks were a relatively common sight in Venice for other reasons. While the masks served as a form of deceit and disguise Venetians intended the mask as not a form of deceit or a disguise, rather the act of donning a mask was a tradition heavily engraved in Venetian culture. Aside from at the carnival, Venetians donned masks on other occasions. Nobles for instance wore masks when they receive foreign diplomats, when they attend a marriage of one of the doge’s children, or when they witnessed the installation of church. They also observed the wearing of masks on special dates in history and when greeting masked heads of state traveling incognito. The masks also served as vehicles of crime. The mask, tabàro, and baùta were godsend to smugglers, card sharks, and thieves. In addition, masks also accorded reverence and equality.

Keywords: masks; Venice; eighteenth century; deceit and disguise; baùta; tabàro; reverence and equality

Chapter.  2470 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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