Did you know that Shakespeare arranged the first meeting of his extremely popular characters, Romeo and Juliet, at a Masquerade Ball?
History suggests that the now world famous Masquerade Masks originated in Venice, Italy during the 15th Century. They were primarily in use by general public before Masquerade Balls came into existence in 16th Century Renaissance. Further theories suggest that the original usage was meant to conceal identity of the wearer as well as to equalize people from higher and lower classes during public events.
Masks in the 16th Century
Masquerade Balls were frenzied events that carried the auras of mystery and charm. The events included elaborate dancing, socializing between various strata of society and of course, the unparalleled masquerade masks for women as well as men. The masks enhanced the liberal nature of these events, as identities could not be determined. People could raise their concerns and indulge in extravaganzas of any nature without worrying about the repercussions. The masks of that time were mainly molded from clay and velvet with an array of decorative like feathers and colored stones (even the occasional precious stones for the richer crowd). The designs were so varied that two of a kind were a rare sight indeed.
The Laws against the Use of Masks
Towards the 18th century, laws were put in place to limit the use of masks on a regular basis. By this time, the masks carried the façade of intrigue, often being referred as dissident. However, their use in theatre was omnipresent throughout the ages as it is even today for certain plays.
Masquerade Masks as Home Décor in Today’s Times
In modern times, Venetian masks for women and men adorn many a collectors homes. They are a part of décor of many contemporary homes, adding a historical aura around them and, of course, enhancing the look as well!
Masquerade Themed Events in the 21st Century
Masquerade themed parties came in vogue as it allowed people to embrace a historical style of hosting as well added the thrill factor. Some weddings have been based on the Masquerade themed that included the use of Venetian masks for women and men. Charity events also have used this theme time and again to help spread their message.
The Venetian Carnival is a prevalent festival dedicated to art and the history of Masquerade. This lively event attempts to encompass the history and past of the earlier centuries. A great number of people visit the ever-romantic city of Venice to get a feel of times that once were. If you get a chance to visit Italy during this time, you will get an incandescent feeling of the past where Masquerade Balls popularized Masquerade masks for women and men.
Venice is a popular tourist destination because of its picturesque canals, the famous Carnival and its amazing Italian culture. No carnival is complete without vibrant and colorful Venetian masks. These come in unlimited shapes, sizes and textures to suit every requirement.
Some masks are specially made keeping women in mind. Venetian masks for women generally have a more delicate appearance and are often made of metal filigree and lace. Some other specialised masks for women are Eye Masks, Nose & Phantom Masks, Stick Masks and Feather Masks.
The bauta is a mask which is a traditional weird piece of artwork characterized by a prominent nose, a chin jutting out and no mouth. The chin is like a beak and the wearer can speak, drink and eat through it. The bauta is often worn with a black or red cape and a three cornered hat. Usually males wear the bauta, but many paintings from the 18th century also display women wearing this mask coupled with a tricorn hat.
The Columbina, also known as a Columbino is a half-mask, which covers only the wearer’s upper cheeks, eyes and nose. It is a modern creation for women and is very often decorated with crystals, gold, silver and feathers. It is held in front of the face by a baton or can be tied with ribbons like most other Venetian masks. The Columbina mask is named after a stock character Columbina, a maidservant who was part of Italian theatre for generations. It has been said that this mask was specially designed for a beautiful actress who did not want to cover her face completely. While both women and men now use this mask, it began as a woman’s answer to the bauta.
The participants at a masquerade ball attend wearing various types of costumes. Masquerade masks are used during these balls to conceal the identity of the wearers. Wearing a mask often indicates you do not even know who you are dancing with, and the ball is almost a game of “guess who” where people try to figure out the identities of others. Often suitors attempt to steal a kiss from a lady who has caught their eye. Masquerade masks are generally made out of paper mache, but in the olden days, animal hides like pig skins were used.
Masquerade masks for women come in all colors and styles. Women generally prefer to select a mask of a color which matches the dress they plan to wear. Styles include feathered masks, masks with handles, masks with animal prints and more. Women like to ensure they get the appropriate mask that fits their mood and dress style. Other Venetian masks for women include those with ostrich feathers, elaborately painted ones, glittered masks as well as simpler unadorned papier mache or Vinyl masks.
Events that use Venice as the theme often use masks as sale items and decoration pieces. You can use Venetian masks at parties to organize a colorful Italian experience for your guests.