Gondolas, Masks and Costumes –
Photos of The Venice Carnival
Every year crowds flock to Venice in February or March for the Venice Carnival. St. Mark’s Square becomes a hub for exquisite creatures adorned with masked costumes embellished with jewels and feathers. It’s a time of opulence, elegance and indulgence. There are parties and celebrations taking place all over the city and everyone is looking to “see and to be seen”.
The Venice Carnival culminates in Martedi Grasso, or Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent. The Carnival is said to date back to 1162 and began as a celebration of Venice’s victory over Aquileia. However, mask-wearing can be traced back much further in Venice’s history, even as far back as the 9th century.
In dressing up in bright costumes and donning masks, not everyone is who they might seem …. there’s an air of mystery all around. In fact it is the mask which initially conferred great freedom on the people of Venice, offering them the opportunity to have a break from their very strict social system and allowing themselves to be carried away by the “anonymity” of the Carnival. The masked balls, enabled people to take on a completely different persona and to enjoy life in a totally different way.
The masks themselves were made of materials such as clay and papier-maché. The main types of masks are the anonymous “Bauta”, the mysterious “Moretta” and the fascinating “Gnaga”.
However, when the Serenissima Republic fell to Napoleon in 1797 the Carnival was banned in Venice and all the celebrations and rituals associated with it were shut down. Yet two centuries later, it was reinstated in 1979 and since then has been going from strength to strength.
Today’s Venetian Carnival scene is awash with people in extravagant costumes and ornate masks, taking rides in Gondolas and posing and taking in the atmosphere of St Marks Square and the whole of Venice. It’s a delight for tourists who gather to admire these wonderful creatures and to enjoy the fun of Carnival.
Carmen Sirboiu took all these photos of the Venice Carnival and every year she runs photographic workshops capturing the essence of the carnival. If you would be interested in going on one of her photographic workshops to Venice or elsewhere please contact Carmen here via her website.
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