International Conference "Theatre Between Tradition and Contemporaneity"
Theatre - Dance - Music - Visual & Multimedia Art - Arts Administration - Performing Arts Training - Theatre Design & Technology

December 17 - 21, 2015


Mini-Exhibition of Traditional Handmade Venetian Masks

IUGTE Conference participants will have opportunity to see the collection of traditional handmade Venetian Masks created by the masters of Bluemoon Venice who specialize in the production of Venice's famous paper-mâché masks.

Participants will have opportunity to purchase the masks they like and bring home the particle of the precious Venetian tradition.

Venice is an incredible place to find precious and unique masks - a traditional symbol of Venetian culture and the annual Carnival of Venice (in Italian: Carnevale di Venezia). The Carnival starts around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday.

Some Interesting Facts About Venetian Masks and Carnival of Venice
  • Venetian Masks can be classified under the two major groups - Commedia Dell'Arte and Carnival Masks. Both groups have particular characters, gender specifics and numerous vivid legends which surround them. 

  • Venetian Masks can be made of leather, porcelain, papier-mache or with the original glass technique. 

  • Since antiquity genuine Venetian Masks were, and still are, created and decorated by hand. Each of them is a unique separate work of art. Authentic Venetian Masks may have incredible adornments: some have feathers, rhinestones, macramé, and even gold or silver leaf; they might feature leather, lace, and velvet trim; some even have little paintings on them. So each item is made by hand, and it is unique. No other piece is identical.

  • The mask-makers of Venice (in Italian: mascherari) represent the rich history of Venice, its people and traditions. Mask making is an art that mascherieri take years of work to perfect. It is a craft that has been handed down from generation to generation for many centuries. Masks made in Venice are made in small workshops, tiny little alleys and basements which have unique atmosphere and reflect Venetian history. Masks are made by people who live the culture and are linked to its traditions. In the past mascherari had their own Statute dated 10 April 1436. The mask-makers belonged to the fringe of painters and were helped in their task by sign-painters who drew faces onto plaster in a range of different shapes and paying extreme attention to detail.

  • The masks in the past were simple in design and decoration. They had a symbolic and practical function in everyday life. They were used in order to conceal the face for a variety of purposes - from romantic dates to commit secret crimes. Carnival in Italy was traditionally a period when roles were reversed – men and women, nobility and commoners. 

  • In the past the Carnival could not be interrupted and that meant it had to carry on at any cost, so much so that the death of the Doge Paolo Renier, which took place around February 13th 1789, was communicated only on March 2nd, at the end of all the festivities.

  • Masks were worn not only during the Carnival but also during other celebrations. As the result, masks were literally worn throughout the year. The government was very concerned about this fact, and revised the law several times. For example, in 1339 it was forbidden for everyone to wear masks at night. In the beginning of 1600 people were not allowed to wear masks in convents and churches.

  • Carnevale di Venezia was first celebrated in Venice in 1094. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance the Carnival celebrations were popular throughout Europe. After more than 500 years of life, the history of the Venetian Masks and the Carnival of Venice finished in 1797 with the start of 60 years of Austrian domination over the ex Republic of Venice. Under the rule of the King of Austria, the Carnival was outlawed in 1797. The use of masks became strictly forbidden. During the fascism in Venice and Italy the Carnival was forbidden as well. After the long absence, only in 1979 the Carnival festival tradition returned back, thanks to the group of Venice architecture students who began to revive this ancient tradition. The history of the Venetian Masks continues. Since 1980s, the Carnival of Venice has become of the most beautiful and famous festivals in the world.

  • The use of Venetian Masks in pupular culture is interesting: Venetian Masks featured in Stanley Kubrick's Movie "Eyes Wide Shut" (starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise) -
    the masks became a very strong symbol so precisely chosen by Kubrick.

Organized by IUGTE in collaboration with "ArtUniverse"