We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. Accept | Find out more



  • By Norwegian

    Filter by:


Queen of the ball

The Venice Carnival’s Il Ballo del Doge might be the world’s most lavish and exclusive ball. Its creator, Antonia Sautter, reveals its secrets

Text by Mandi Keighran / Photos Tim E White

What’s behind the masks?

The origins of Venice’s carnival costumes are as elusive as the identities of those the masks disguise

The most likely explanation for the elaborate costumes and masks associated with Venice is that they represent a reaction to the uniquely rigid Venetian class structure. Behind masks, the strict hierarchies of Venetian society dissolved – nobles and peasants mingled anonymously, and the citizens of Venice behaved as they desired, playing out their fantasies.

During the Renaissance, the reputation of the carnival celebrations grew around Europe, and the number of non-Venetians taking part increased, as did the debauchery, decadence and promiscuity. Regulations began to be put in place. In the early 18th century, for example, mask wearing was restricted to three months of the year, and the government ruled that a certain type of Venetian mask which completely disguised the identity of the wearer – the Bauta – was to be worn only by Venetian citizens in certain situations (such as political decision-making) and never with weapons. Nevertheless, the carnival continued until the end of the Republic of Venice in 1797, when it was outlawed under the rule of the King of Austria and masks were strictly prohibited.

The tradition moved behind closed doors, where private masquerade balls and dinners continued to thrive. In 1979, however, the Italian government brought the carnival back to Piazza San Marco, as part of a move to reintroduce the traditional culture of Venice.

Page 2 of 2 1 2


comments powered by Disqus