For many years Venice has had my heart. For me it truly is the most magical place with its interconnecting canals, the romantic gondolas gliding through the waters, the beautiful buildings that emerge from the water and the stunning art that is hand blown Murano glass. It is also the birthplace of famed Italian adventurer, author and lothario Giacomo Casanova. With Venice being one of the most exquisite and noble destinations it is no surprise that they hold probably the most ostentatious of festivals and dressing up heaven, the Carnevale di Venezia.
Famed for its elaborate masks and costumes, the annual Venice festival, according to legend, emerged following the Venetian Republic military victory in 1162 over the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Traven. The celebrations of this victory saw the people gather in Piazza San Marco and dance in jubilant delight. It was only during the Renaissance though that this festival became official, and throughout the 17th & 18th Century it continued to take place. Allowing the lower classes to hide behind their façade whilst mocking the upper classes and lubricating socially inappropriate behaviour for the privileged, the festivities would last for 6 months of the year. Hedonistic visitors from all over Europe, beguiling with invisibility and concealment, would drink, gamble, dance and dabble in dubious activities and dark deeds .
In1797 the Rupublic of Venice fell to Napoolean, which led to the rule of under the rule of Francis II, the Holy Roman Emperor & later Emperor of Austria. Being appalled by the moral permissiveness that permeated the city the carnevale and the use of masks was outlawed. Bringing asceticism to the city it ensured that any rebellious behaviour and plan hatching that costume wearing facilitated was stopped.
The Rebirth of the Carnevale
However, during the 19th century, the mask started to reemerge as the people of Venice gradually started wearing them once more during private feasts and short occasions. It was as these gatherings that artistic creations began to flourish. It was in 1979 that the Italian government decided to bring back the culture and history of Venice and used the centrepiece of the traditional Carnival, as we now know it, as its centrepiece for celebrations. To date (pandemic prevailing) takes place the day before the start of Lent on Ash.
La Maschera più Bella
The Venetian event brings over 3 million tourists to Venice to experience the stunning spectacular of costumes and masks galore, as well as attend some of the wonderful parties that take place throughout the festival. One of the most important events during the festival is La Maschera più Bella (the most beautiful mask) contest which is judged by a panel of international fashion and costume designers.
Masks & Costumes
Plague Doctors, Nobility, Harlequins, Red Queens, the dark and mesmerising fairytale costumes are everything that you can expect to see filling the dimly lit narrow streets and alleys of Venice. Whilst many favour the opulent designs of 18th and 19th century Venetian Nobles other costumes follow a particular theme such as the sun and moon or animals. But one thing is for sure there is always an abundance of silks, sparkles, jewels and feathers. Spectacular headwear is also a huge favourite, sometimes in place of mask wearing and these are as extravagant and fabulous as the masks and costumes. Costumes can cost into the thousands are designed or bought, and also hired, from specialist shops months in advance. With fabulous wigs and huge attention to detail with shoes, the complete ensemble is a feast for the eyes.
Visiting Venice and being part of this festival is one thing that should definitely be added to the bucket list. If you do ever plan to tick this off your must see and experience the wonders of this truly magical festival then why not let us create you a beautiful bespoke mask or headpiece. You can contact us either by phone 01273 966227 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org where we can talk through ideas for costumes.
I truly hope that you have enjoyed learning a little bit about the Canevale di Venezia and the history of this festival.
Carnival 2022 Programme Schedule
2022 sees the festival kicking off on 19th February with Opera at Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto & finishes on Sunday 1 March with the Eagle Flight from Saint-Mark Square Bell Tower Campanile.
followed by the Grand Final Masked Costume Contest Award Ceremony in Saint Marks Square. For those that want to finish of the day with a party then the un-missable Carnival of Burano is the place to be.