(Venice, Italy) There is something liberating about walking around in a mask, dressed as a phantom from the past, yet with a new millennium twist.
People flock from all over the world to stroll around Venice -- Piazza San Marco in particular -- in elaborate costumes while hordes of visitors swarm to take their photo.
If you ever have yearned to pose as a movie star, Venice will be happy to accommodate you.
If your costume is creative enough, you won't be able to walk two steps without being mobbed by cameras.
|Photo: Cat Bauer|
|Photo: Cat Bauer|
|Photo: Official Venice Carnival site|
Carnival in Venice is an opportunity to indulge -- for just a brief moment -- the natural human desire for fame.
Carnival is a chance for ordinary people to flip things on its head -- it has always been that way in Venice. This cannot be stressed enough: it is part of Venetian culture to don a mask and move around town incognito. Wearing a mask in Venice came about organically -- in a city this small, where everyone knows everything about everyone; where gossip is used as a weapon; in a city where enormous wealth was concentrated into a tiny area; where your worst enemy lived next door... or even inside your own house... the only way to survive was to put on a mask.
Despite being cutthroat merchants, Venetians ultimately maintained a sense of humor, which was one of their very important secrets of success. During the Republic, servants dressed as masters, and masters dressed as servants.
|Photo: Cat Bauer|
"Mask making in Venice can be documented back to the 13th century, though it probably existed much earlier. On April 10, 1436, the ancient profession of mascareri was founded under the jurisdiction of the Painter's Guild. Over the years, masks were used for a variety of reasons -- in the government, the theater, and as a means of disguise. Masks provided the Venetians a degree of anonymity.
The wearing of a mask put everyone on the same level: rich and poor, nobleman and citizen, beautiful and ordinary, old and young. It permitted confidences to be exchanged anonymously -- everything from accusations before State Inquisitors, to a potpourri of sexual indiscretions. Prostitutes practiced their trade without fear of retribution; homosexuals hid their illicit lifestyle. In 1458, it was decreed that men were forbidden to dress up as women and enter convents to commit indecent acts.
Not all masks were used for indelicacies, however. The bauta was worn by both men and women, and was not considered a costume but a form of dress -- required wearing if a woman wanted to go to the theater. Il medico della peste had a long beak-like nose stuffed with disinfectants, and, as its name implies, was used to protect doctors from the plague."
So, I am happy that all these international people still put on a mask and get elaborately dressed and come to Venice for Carnival in the year 2014. Even if today they are doing it for an entirely different reason.
CLICK TO GO TO OFFICIAL VENEZIA CARNEVALE WEBSITE
Meanwhile, down at Giardini, it's La Biennale's 5th International Carnival for Kids. This year's theme is the Cookie Cottage.
The place is jumping with children of all ages emanating raw kid energy.
Germany even sent their Carnival royalty, Prince Pascal II and Princess Louisa I. This is such a clever idea, I think all of Europe should select a Prince and Princess to attend the Venice Kid's Carnival every year.
When I was a kid, the very first book I wrote at age six was entitled, Children of Other Lands. It was inspired by a deck of cards I had that was illustrated with European children wearing traditional clothing. I was fascinated to the point of obsession by that deck of cards... by the exotic children all over the world. If you are growing up in all-white small-town New Jersey, a deck of cards like that can open another universe...
So, seeing Prince Pascal II and Princess Louisa I was sort of like having the deck of cards come to life. And, of all the monarchs, I love Ludwig II, the fairytale King of Bavaria -- who gave us the music of Wagner, among many other things -- the most.
One of the best things about the Kid's Carnival is the free, endless supply of rich hot chocolate and frittelli. Another yum!
CLICK FOR KID'S CARNIVAL INFO
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog