The Everyday Masquerade

The mask conceals the ordinary and reveals the extraordinary, and this is especially evident in eighteenth-century Venice. At this time in Venice the mask served as an escape and as a release from the rising political tensions looming over the lagoon. The mask represents Venice’s nobility grasping the unraveling threads of a myth of the undying city. Artist Pietro Longhi accurately depicts the anonymity of the mask as mirrored in the lives of Venetian nobility. The mask does not stand for just one concrete concept or idea. There are different types of masks representing social responsibility in upholding the image of Venice such as the Bauta and Moretta masks worn by the patrician class. Other mask types, for example masks of the characters in the Italian plays of Commedia dell’Arte, signify social freedom in the realization and in the denial of the declining state of the Republic. As fragile as the papier-mache comprising it, yet as resilient as the city that created it, the Venetian mask symbolizes the complex duality of prestigious reputation and social unrest that compromised eighteenth-century Venetian society.

Mask Making

Types of Masks

Commedia dell’Arte Masks

Pietro Longhi

Masks Bibliography

Artist Unknown, Titles of Masks from left to right: “Farfallina Ferro,” “Cappello Fiori,” and “Nasone Zanni.” Pictures obtained from: http://www.lavenexiana.it/venice_mask_shop.html

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