Masks have always been a central feature of the Venetian carnival. Traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen's Day, December 26) at the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.
Venetian masks can be made in leather or with the original papier-mâché technique. The original masks were rather simple in design and decoration. Nowadays, most of them are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf.
Bauta is a "mask which covers the whole face, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth, and lots of gilding". It was used on many other occasions as a device for hiding the wearer's identity and social status.
Moretta is an oval mask of black velvet that was usually worn by women visiting convents. It was invented in France and rapidly became popular in Venice as it brought out the beauty of feminine features. The mask was finished off with a veil.
Larva, also called the volto mask, is mainly white, and typically Venetian. It is worn with a tricorn and cloak. It is thought the word "larva" comes from the Latin meaning "mask" or "ghost". It is easy to imagine the effect of a Venetian all dressed in black with a white mask and a black tricorn, going past in the moonlight.
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