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Explore the Venetian Carnival

Explore the Venetian Carnival: Venice is famed for "Carnival di Venezia." One of the oldest carnivals believed to have started in the 11th Century. In 1436 mask makers or mascareri were granted with their own guild. From that point Carnival went from strength to strength building up to be the focal point of many peoples social calendar.

The name Carnival comes from "carne" or meat. In the Christian calendar the time after Shrove Tuesday was when lent began and many people gave up eating meat and other good things for 40 days.

In the earlier years Carnival began at Christmas and lasted until Shrove Tuesday. A fact reflected in the carnivals in Brazil and Louisiana.

Wearing masks for disguise reached was at its height in the 18th Century. The people of Venice used Carnival to mingle and even to trade sexual favours. Recognition whilst wearing a mask was unlikely and the commoner could mix with the higher social classes. A great time was had by all participants.

Napoleon's and his troops ended the Venetian Republic in 1797. It is difficult to accept that the first modern mask shop was opened as recently as 1978, re-establishing the traditions of Carnival.

There are several categories of Venetian mask

Commedia dell'Arte masks like Harlequin and Pierrot.

Fantasy masks some inspired by older designs.

Traditional Venetian masks - white volto half-mask with nose cover -plague doctor's mask with its phallic beak. Both apparently used to protect wearers from the plague.

Modern Venetian masks serve two purposes to disguise and flatter, or for sale to collectors or tourists. For the collector who does not have time to visit Venice there are several excellent masks makers using the traditional forms in Italy, the USA and the UK. Sales on the web are quite common.

One fabulous site to visit is Angel Masks. Here you will find the leather masks of Cheryl Mandus. Please just take a look at what I can only describe as fantastic leather masks by Angel Masks

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