touritaly.org Site Logo - Italian flag with Tour of Italy for the FInancially Challenged text

Touritaly.org Home | Italy MAPS | Academic Content | Links | About Us | Italy News | Italian Phrasebook | Italy Weather | Site Map 

Venice - History of Venetian Masks (with Pictures)

In 1162 Doge Vitale Michieli triumphed over Ulrich II of Treven and an annual celebration to commemorate the occasion was commenced. The first documented usage of Venetian masks in conjunction with the annual celebration was in 1268.

As Venice grew in popularity as a tourist destination through the middle ages the city became known as a pleasure palace. During this period the popularity of masks grew as prominent social figures dawned disguises to conceal their identities as they performed unscrupulous and immoral acts in pursuit of carnal pleasures. 

During the 16th through 18th century Venetian Masks became the signature of the Commedia Dell'arte. The Commedia Dell'arte were popular plays in the form of improvisational theater that were performed by theater companies that traveled the Italian peninsula producing comedies involving the topics of adultery, jealousy, and love.

Several of Venice's  popular mask forms such as the Capitano, the Paglianccio(clown), the Pulcinella (the mascot of Naples), and Zanni (the threadbare old servant of Venice) were shaped in character in the traveling road show known as the Commedia dell'arte.

On October 17, 1797 Venice became part of the Kingdom of the Lombardy-Venetia (Austria). When the Austrians took control of the city masked celebrations were outlawed.  :-(  Venetian masks faded into obscurity.

The tradition of mask making was not rekindled until 1979 when some undergraduate art students revived the tradition in an effort to profit from the tourism trade in the city. And a successful endeavor it turned out to be. In less than 30 years the artisan profession has flourished and now masks and Venice are synonymous. 

The history of the Venetian Mask is nearly as colorful as the masks themselves.

Ventian Masks - A picture of colorful masks
Ventian Masks - A picture of three distinctive masks
Ventian Masks - be mindful of the quality when you arrive in venice.
Picture of Ventian Masks - Venice is filled with mask vendors, this image shows the selection available.
Credit for the Information Above: 
Steves, R. & Openshaw, G. (2008). Rick Steves' Venice 2008. Avalon Travel Press.
Farcos, D. & Pauls, M. (2007). Rome, Venice, Florence. Globe Pequat Press. Guilford, CT.
Fodor's (2007). Italy 2008 Fodor's Travel Publications. New York, NY.

<< Gondola Pictures 2               Touritaly.org Home 


Touritaly.org Home | Italy MAPS | Academic Content | Links | About Us | Italy News | Italian Phrasebook | Italy Weather | Site Map

© 1999-2008 by Tour of Italy for the Financially Challenged/touritaly.org

All Rights Reserved | legal dogma