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The most popular Carnival masks

Summary

Carnival in Venice, scheduled from 27th January to 13th February 2024, has always been an expression of freedom and fun. A key component of the carnival experience is the mask. Wearing a mask allowed people to transform into someone else, freeing themselves from the constraints of everyday life.

But have you ever wondered where those peculiar fake faces that invade the streets and squares of the city of Venice at Carnival come from? 

There are many Venetian carnival masks, each with a unique meaning and history. 

Among the most famous Carnival costumes, we find: 

  • La Bauta 
  • La Gnaga 
  • La Moretta 

The Baùta, the Venetian mask par excellence

When talking about the Bauta, one must distinguish the mask from the costume. The Bauta in fact, was one of the most famous disguises of the Venetian Carnival. It has become over time a true symbol of the Venetian Carnival. 

The Bauta consists of several elements: 

  • The white mask called larva 
  • The black tricorn (tricorno nero), a black hat with three points 
  • The zendale, a silk or lace shawl to cover the head and shoulders 
  • A dark cloak, the tabarro, that covered the entire figure down to the feet. 

Once worn by both men and women, it covered the wearer from head to toe. Such undefined figures with inscrutable faces roamed the calli and campielli during the entire Carnival period. 

The Gnaga, a disguise symbolizing the role reversal for Carnival

The Gnaga was a Venetian carnival mask popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the most allusive and representative carnival masks used by men to impersonate female figures, a symbol of role reversal. According to tradition, the Gnaga costume involves wearing female clothing, completing the disguise with a cat-like mask. Gnaga in Venetian dialect in fact means cat. This disguise could then be enhanced by adding a basket under the arm containing a kitten. 

What distinguished this disguise was above all the attitude of the wearer. Men disguised as Gnaga in fact went around town posing as women. 

The moretta, the mask most appreciated by women

Speaking of Venetian masks, the Moretta deserves special attention. It is one of the most sought-after disguises especially by women as well as the alter ego of the Gnaga mask. The Moretta is a very simple and sophisticated mask with an oval shape made of dark fabric.

One of the elements that distinguishes this mask from others is the fact that it was mute in that it did not allow the wearer to speak. In fact, the Moretta is held tightly to the face without the use of strings, but by biting a button on the inside, positioned right at the height of the mouth.

Tours by Venice Tours

 How about really experiencing the city of Venice? Discover the best experiences, tours and itineraries. 

  • Venice Carnival Treasure Hunt (departure from the car terminal to Saint Mark’s Square) 
  • Create your own Venice mask – Art experience 
  • Carnival Dances 
  • Prison itinerary in Saint Mark’s Square 
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