The art of mask-making
The use of masks by both the Venetians and foreign visitors during Carnival, which even then was a great tourist attraction, created a demand for masks and consequently the figure of the mask-maker evolved.
These were registered artisans who created masks in papier maché or waxed canvas to satisfy the needs of the most demanding customers
The most fashionable masks and costumes
The Venetian costume par excellence is the bauta, worn by men and women: it consists of a black cloak and a tricorn hat, plus a white mask completely concealing the wearer's face.
Total anonymity was guaranteed by the bauta as it allowed the wearer to eat and drink without having to remove the mask
Another mask worn by women was the "moretta", an oval of black velvet attached to the woman's face thanks to a button held between the teeth.
Also popular was the domino, a long cape with a hood completely concealing the wearer's face.
People who could not afford the rich Carnival clothes could hire them from the "revendigola" (secondhand retailer), as we learn in the Goldoni's comedy "Le Massere", and engage in distraction, in the
"liston.. Ghe xe un mondo de baronaggia, che no se pol caminar. Truffaldini, purichinelli, gnaghe..."
(The jealous women, act I°)
(literally, walking and showing off in the Liston ...crowded by so many rascals that it's impossible to walk)
The "commedia dell'arte"
The mask found its official consecration in the theatre and some of the characters from the commedia dell'arte became actual stereotypes, perfectly reflecting Venetian society.
And so we have Pantalone, the rich old merchant, the know-all doctor Balanzone, from Bologna, the crafty servant Brighella and the daft Harlequin, both having Bergamo origins, and finally the cunning serving wench Colombina.
The popular work-shy clown Pulcinella is neither from Veneto nor Bergamo, but has his origins in Naples. He is a lazy bones buffoon.
During the last days of Carnival the city teems with people in masks who happily invade streets and squares in search of fun and getting themselves noticed.
It's possible to see every kind of costume, from static and icy 18th century noblewomen courted by equally frosty fops, to the most inventive and creative personalised modern costumes.
Saint Mark's Square and the city's other main squares act as perfect stages for those who wish to become, at least for a few hours a year, the protagonists of another life.