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Let me take you to the most famous of carnivals. The carnival in Venice, Italy, is said to date back to the 14th century. In the late 1700s, when Venice came under Austrian rule, the carnival came to a halt for almost two hundred years. In the 1930s it was even declared illegal by the fascist government. It was not until the 1980s that the carnival regained its splendour. It ends on Shrove Tuesday, which begins Lent, the forty days before Easter that should be marked by fasting and abstinence.
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Photo 1. The carnival of Venice means colour and beauty, mystery and secret love. In their lavish and colourful dresses, these two women hide their true faces behind traditional carnival masks. In this gallery you will see people with beautiful masks or painted faces. Carnival masks are an integral part of the carnival, so much that you will even see pizzas in the form of masks!
Photo 2. Even though it was a forbidden practice long ago, painting one's face is popular, especially among children. Here a young boy is having his face painted. During the carnival, the piazza in front of the central station is full of friendly people helping visitors have their faces painted.
Photo 3. The carnival attracts loads of tourists who are treated to many colourful experiences. Here a man in a carnival costume with a three-cornered hat is being photographed together with a child.
Photo 4. One of the oldest Venetian masks is the bauta, covering the whole face and having no mouth but a square and protruding jaw line allowing the wearer to eat and drink without removing the mask. Wearing a tricorn hat has always been common, particularly with the bauta. In the 18th century, wearing a bauta and a cape was mandatory during certain political decision-making meetings to secure anynomous participation. The lady is wearing a colombine – more about that later.
Photo 5. This lady standing near Canal Grande is wearing a mask called volto. Originally worn by both men and women it used to be attached to a three-cornered hat and did not cover the whole face. Now as a full-face mask, it gives artists more room for decorating.
Photo 6. On the Rialto Bridge I took this image of a happy girl wearing a feather-adorned half-mask and escorted by two oriental-looking gentlemen.
Photo 7. A display of various masks in a shop window in Venice. The tradition of wearing a mask goes back to the 13th century, but the practice has been restricted and there were strict rules about when masks could be worn. Masks are nowadays usually made of papier maché or gesso, a kind of primer including animal glue, chalk and white paint. They are decorated with gold leaf, hand-painted and often adorned with feathers and pearls. Originally, masks were made of leather or even glass or porcelain.
Photo 8. In a shop window I even, but not surprisingly – after all we are in Italy! – found pizza dough in the shape of carnival masks.
Photo 9. The inventiveness of Venetians never ends. This green man in the Piazzetta San Marco has adorned himself with modern gadgets like cellphones and pocket calculators.
Photo 10. In her elaborate dress and feathered hat, this lady wears an inscrutable face. The mask is a colombine – see the next image for more information.
Photo 11. Here we se a Colombina, a half-mask covering the eyes only. It can be tied round the head like other masks or held up to the face with the help of a baton or stick. It is named after the Commedia dell'Arte figure Colombina, the counterpart of Arlecchino (Harlequin).
Photo 12. This little girl in her beautiful red dress is wearing a colombine mask. The continuation of the Venetian carnival tradition is safe, since the young generation follows in the footsteps of their elders – or rather walks side by side with them. I can warmly recommend a visit to the carnival of Venice!
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