Today, Venetian masks are mostly just fashion accessories that we put on during a masquerade themed party or fancy dress event. Traditionally speaking, these masks come with a rich historical significance especially in Italian theatre where they were used to represent different characters on stage.
Most people tend to confuse Venetian masquerade masks used in carnivals with the masks that are used in theatre. Also known as Commedia Dell’Arte masks, the theatrical variants were employed to exhibit specific traits in a character or to represent a particular profession.
Even though you may find theatrical masks that look like quintessential masquerade masks on a stick or even the ones you can tie with a ribbon, in reality they have some distinct differences-
The Burrattino Mask – This particular mask essentially comes with a long nose and a small face for comical effect. It is often also known as the Pinnocchio mask and is typically worn by those characters that are expected to be funny and endearing. Characters that wear this mask are typically not the lead or significant characters.
The Arlecchino Mask – This type of theatrical mask typically comes with a distinct red mark of some form on its forehead. This could either represent a scar or a pimple. Besides this feature, the mask can come in various shapes and sizes. However, another distinct feature worth noting is the flat nose and lack of a mouth. This particular mask typically cuts off just below the nose. This mask usually represents an impoverished character in tattered and torn attire.
The Brighella Mask – This mask is usually worn by the villain or an accomplice of the Arlecchino. These masks are usually green, representing the character’s love for wealth and money on the verge of greed. This character is also often known as the Figaro and he or she is often the schemer in a story.
The Captain Saramouche Mask – This particular mask is donned by a character who is either young with a sense of adventure or an old sailor who comes with many interesting tales of adventure. This character most often narrates tales of bravery, glory and is most often the hero. His attire is designed to set an impression and this character is often a great lover and popular among the ladies.
While Venetian masquerade masks and theatrical masks both come with rich histories, the latter is used to represent an array of traits, characteristics and emotions on an Italian stage. You will be able to purchase these novelty masquerade masks and theatrical masks online or while you travel. Wear them in your next fancy dress event or simply hang it up on a wall to give your room a touch of elegance.
by Marina Chernyak