Types of Carnival Masks

Written by kimberly dyke
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Types of Carnival Masks
Carnival masks date back to the 13th century. (Axel Fassio/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Venetian carnival masks date back to 13th-century costume disguises. Sixteenth-century actors used the masks in theatre to portray characters such as Puccinella, Nasone and the Harlequin. Today, costume balls and Mardi Gras celebrations feature carnival masks, adding pizazz and mystery to your identity. You can also use carnival masks in home and business decor.

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The Bauta Mask

The bauta is a mask that covers the entire face, and you can leave it on for the duration of a party or event. An upward-pointing jaw line allows the wearer to eat, drink and talk without ever removing the mask. This traditional mask has no mouth, a square chin line and a lot of gilding.

The Columbino Mask

The columbino, or columbine, is a half-mask decorated with gold, silver, crystals and feathers. You tie this mask around the head with ribbon or hold it up to the face with an attached stick, or baton. Part of the face is visible with this type of mask, therefore exposing the identity of the wearer.

The Moretta Mask

The moretta mask is not as common today, but wearers held it in place by biting on a button on the back of the mask. The mask was then covered with a veil, and wearers could not speak. Venetians believed this mask brought out feminine features in women, such as their head and mind.

The Plague Doctor

The medico della peste, or the plague doctor, is a quickly recognised Carnival mask. The mask was modelled after the mask of French doctor, Charles de Lorme, who wore a similar mask when treating plaque victims in the 16th century. The face of the mask is white and features a hollow beak along with eye holes covered with crystal discs. Many wearers also use a black hat, white gloves and long black coat to complete the plague doctor costume.

The Volto Mask

The volto, or larva, mask is similar to the bauta and covers the entire face. The mask also allows the wearer to eat, drink and talk without removal during the party, thus protecting his identity. This mask is mainly white. To complete the costume and add some mystery, the Venetians added a black tricorne and cloak.

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