Venice Carnival 2010 took place 5-16 February this year. I am glad I was able to attend this extraordinary tradition. Last week I blogged about the Fire Show by a French group, La Salamandre. I am still on the Venice Carnival topic (sorry, can not help it). In this post I will showcase a few of the costumes I was able to capture with my camera.
A Little Bit of History
The word carnival comes from Latin for “Farewell, meat!”. The Carnival takes place just before Lent. All meat, butter and eggs had to be used before the fasting period starts. This was a great opportunity for a party! The history of the Venice Carnival tradition began after 1162. Although, 1268 dates the first document mentioning the use of masks.
In the beginning of the 1900s, Mussolini banned the Carnival. Luckily, in 1979, a group of Venetians and lovers of Venice decided to revive the tradition. Since then the image of the mask has become a worldwide icon of Venice.
Venice Carnival Masks
It is the masks in particular that makes the Venice Carnival so unique. The idea is to overturn the social order in Venice. If you cannot identify the person behind the mask, you do not know his/her social status.
Some of the masks depicted Commedia dell’Arte (Italian, meaning “comedy of professional artists”) characters. Others were more sinister.
The famous white-beaked mask was originally for the Plague Doctor. The mask was to protect the face, which included protective crystal eyes. The beak which was stuffed with spices or herbs to purify the air that the doctor breathed.
Another one of my favourites is the Gatto (means cat in Italian). Cats were so scarce in Venice that they became the subject of one of the most typical masks. Legend has it that a man who owned nothing but his old cat, came to Venice from China. The cat got rid of all the mice in the palace and the man became rich. I have also heard that prostitutes start wearing the Gatto masks.
A Few Costumes I Captured
More photos of the Carnival and my trip around Venice can be viewed at my Flickr photostream.