TITLE: Commedia dell’Arte Zanni
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Zanni Mask
MAKER: Cesare Ginoletti (?)
CEREMONY: Commedia dell’Arte; Carnival
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: airbrushed paint; lacquer; hardware

The Commedia dell’Arte was a form of public entertainment that succeeded the classical Roman theater in Italy.  Like classical theater, Commedia performers wore leather masks to represent stock characters and often performed in amphitheaters to large audiences.  However, the Commedia differed in having only a very basic plot sketch, with most of the lines invented extemporaneously by the actors.  The Commedia‘s ability to stay topical and its frequent resort to vulgar humor, combined with the considerable talent of Italian troupes that traveled throughout Europe, made this form of theater extremely popular throughout the early 17th to late 19th centuries. Masked actors had to compensate for their inability to convey facial emotion through posture, gesture, and vocal nuance.

Zanni (sometimes spelled Zani or Zane) is among the oldest stock characters of the Commedia. The Zanni is a servant. Originally, Zanni represented an immigrant who served the character known as Don Pantalone. The mask is always a half-mask to facilitate conversation, and the nose may be short or long. Usually, Zanni wears a peaked hat and carries a wooden sword. His personality was typically portrayed as voracious, coarse, loud, emotional, ignorant scoundrel who nonetheless could sometimes manage the impossible. Eventually, specific forms of Zanni, such as Arlecchino (Harlequin), Pulcinella (Punch) and Brighella became more popular.

To learn more about Commedia dell’Arte, see Pierre Louis Duchartre, The Italian Comedy (Dover Pubs., 1966).

:

TITLE: Carnival Fantasy Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
SUBREGION: Venice
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Moon Mask
MAKER: Carta Alta, Venice
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: early 2000s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: macrame; paint; rhinestones; ribbon

During Carnival in Venice, masqueraders wear a variety of both classical and novelty masks. This mask falls in the latter category. It is made to resemble the moon and can be worn by masqueraders of either sex. By not covering the whole face, masks such as this one allow the wearer unimpeded speech and the option of eating and drinking without unmasking.

:

TITLE: Volto Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
SUBREGION: Venice
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Volto
MAKER: Carta Alta, Venice
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: early 2000s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: macrame; paint; rhinestones; ribbon

The volto (“face”) is a classic Venetian Carnival mask that covers the entire face for maximum anonymity. The lack of an opening, like the bauta mask, makes it appear more natural but less functional, as the masquerader must remove the mask for eating and drinking, and speaking is obstructed by the lack of a mouth opening.

:

TITLE: Carnival Half-Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
SUBREGION: Venice
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Carnival Half-Mask
MAKER: Marilisa Dal Cason, Cogollo del Cengio (1960- )
CEREMONY: Carnival; Masked Balls
AGE: 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché; cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: sequins; ribbons

The Venetian Carnival has long been famed for its elaborate period costumes and elegant masks.  Mask-makers cluster in Venice to service the event, masked balls, and a lively tourist market.  Masks such as this one, both elegant and decorative, are popular during the Venetian Carnival. Half-masks are favored by women because of their practical advantages.  They provided privacy and shielded the most exposed part of the face from the damaging sun in an era where pale skin was a mark of beauty and aristocracy.  Moreover, they offer no impediment to eating, drinking or speaking.  The popularity of such masks soon spread throughout Europe, as evidenced by the painting of the French artist Joseph-Désiré Court in the mid-nineteenth century, depicting a coquette unmasking herself.

:

TITLE: Sardinian Boe
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
SUBREGION: Ottana, Sardinia
ETHNICITY: Italian (Sardinian)
DESCRIPTION: Boe (Ox) Mask
MAKER: Mario Cossu (Ottana, 1941- )
CEREMONY: Carnival; Festa di Sant’Antonio Abate
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint, leather cords

During the Festival of Sant’Antonio Abate, patron saint of the city of Ottana, Sardinia, and on Carnival as well, the Ottanese does as sos boes and sos merdules, two traditional masked characters.  In the Festival of Sant’Antonio, they appear at night before a raging bonfire (s’ogulone) to perform religious duties and begin the Carnival celebration, during which they will parade and enact an ancient drama.  The boes wear furry white sheep skins and ox masks like this one, along with very heavy cowbells (sonazzos) on a leather harness.  The merdules wear deformed white or black masks, representing the fatigue of the peasant oxherder, and a stick or rope whip. During the ceremony, the merdules will attempt to herd the boes, who resist and throw themselves on the ground until forced up again.  Eventually, a third character appears as a witch-like woman (sa filonzana) spinning raw wool, possibly representing the Greek Fate Clotho, who spun the thread of human life and decided where to cut it.

:

TITLE: Commedia dell’Arte Arlecchino
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Arlecchino (Harlequin) Mask
MAKER: Graziano “Safir” Viale, Sardinia
CEREMONY: Commedia dell’Arte; Carnival
AGE: 2013
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; hardware

The Commedia dell’Arte was a form of public entertainment that succeeded the classical Roman theater in Italy.  Like classical theater, Commedia performers wore leather masks to represent stock characters and often performed in amphitheaters to large audiences.  However, the Commedia differed in having only a very basic plot sketch, with most of the lines invented extemporaneously by the actors.  The Commedia‘s ability to stay topical and its frequent resort to vulgar humor, combined with the considerable talent of Italian troupes that traveled throughout Europe, made this form of theater extremely popular throughout the early 17th to late 19th centuries. Masked actors had to compensate for their inability to convey facial emotion through posture, gesture, and vocal nuance.

Arlecchino, known in English as Harlequin, was long a popular stock character of the Commedia. His always wears a black half mask with quizzically arched eyebrows and a wrinkled forehead.  Originally, his costume was a peasant’s shirt and long trousers, both covered with patches to indicate poverty.  It later developed into a stylized, tight-fitting suit decorated with colorful triangles and diamond shapes.  Arlecchino also began carrying a batte, or slapstick, at some point.  The character represents a witty and capricious gentleman’s valet, amorous of the serving maids and sometimes clownishly credulous.

To learn more about Commedia dell’Arte, see Pierre Louis Duchartre, The Italian Comedy (Dover Pubs., 1966).

:

TITLE: Commedia Plague Doctor
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Plague Doctor Mask
MAKER: Lara Milanova (b. London, England)
CEREMONY: Commedia dell’Arte; Carnival
AGE: 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: glass lenses; acrylic paint; brass buckles; brass O-rings

The Commedia dell’Arte was a form of public entertainment that succeeded the classical Roman theater in Italy.  Like classical theater, Commedia performers wore leather masks to represent stock characters and often performed in amphitheaters to large audiences.  However, the Commedia differed in having only a very basic plot sketch, with most of the lines invented extemporaneously by the actors.  The Commedia‘s ability to stay topical and its frequent resort to vulgar humor, combined with the considerable talent of Italian troupes that traveled throughout Europe, made this form of theater extremely popular throughout the early 17th to late 19th centuries. Masked actors had to compensate for their inability to convey facial emotion through posture, gesture, and vocal nuance.

During the period of the Black Death in Europe, doctors visited plague victims to verify whether they have been afflicted and to offer treatment.  Their outfit consisted of a wide brimmed hat to show that the man was a doctor, leather gloves and boots, a body-length linen gown covered in wax, and beaked mask with glass lenses to protect the face.  The beak was stuffed with spices to “purify” the air that the doctor breathed, because it was widely and erroneously believed that the plague was spread through the air.

To learn more about Commedia dell’Arte, see Pierre Louis Duchartre, The Italian Comedy (Dover Pubs., 1966).

:

TITLE: Sardinian Mamuthone
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
SUBREGION: Mamoiada, Sardinia
ETHNICITY: Italian (Sardinian)
DESCRIPTION: Mamuthone
MAKER: Ruggero Mameli (Mamoiada, 1954- )
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; leather straps; metal hardware

The people of Sardinia celebrate Carnival with a unique tradition whose origin is the subject of much debate. Most participants in the Carnival parade in the region of Mamoiada wear costumes and masks of one of two characters: the Issohadore and Mamuthone. The Issohadores dress in a bright military costume and wear a white mask. Soha in Sardinian means “lasso,” which is what the Issohadores carry to encircle and abduct young women in the crowd while they guard the troop of black-masked Mamuthones. Some hypothesize that the Issohadore represents the Spanish conqueror of Sardinia in 1717, and the Mamuthones represent the oppressed Sardinian peasantry. Although the Carnival tradition seems to be much older, it may have been shaped by these historical events.

:

TITLE: Commedia dell’Arte Capitano
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Capitano Cocodrillo Mask
MAKER: Alan G. Newman, Ubud, Bali (b. London, England)
CEREMONY: Commedia dell’Arte; Carnival
AGE: 2012
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment; goat hair; elastic strap

The Commedia dell’Arte was a form of public entertainment that succeeded the classical Roman theater in Italy.  Like classical theater, Commedia performers wore leather masks to represent stock characters and often performed in amphitheaters to large audiences.  However, the Commedia differed in having only a very basic plot sketch, with most of the lines invented extemporaneously by the actors.  The Commedia‘s ability to stay topical and its frequent resort to vulgar humor, combined with the considerable talent of Italian troupes that traveled throughout Europe, made this form of theater extremely popular throughout the early 17th to late 19th centuries. Masked actors had to compensate for their inability to convey facial emotion through posture, gesture, and vocal nuance.

The Capitani were long among the most popular stock characters of the Commedia. Different acting troupes used different captains.  They all had comical or evocative names, such as Spavento della Valle Inferna (Captain Fear of Hell’s Valley), Matamoros (Captain Moor-Killer), or Sangue y Fuego (Captain Blood-and-Fire).  The captain masks were originally flesh-colored, with a menacing nose to represent a bullying personality.

This specific Capitano represents Cocodrillo (Crocodile) and comes from classically trained mask maker Alan G. Newman.

To learn more about Commedia dell’Arte, see Pierre Louis Duchartre, The Italian Comedy (Dover Pubs., 1966).

:

TITLE: Volto Carnival Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
SUBREGION: Venice
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Volto
MAKER: Carta Alta, Venice
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1988
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; ribbon

The volto (“face”) is a classic Venetian Carnival mask that covers the entire face for maximum anonymity. The lack of an opening, like the bauta mask, makes it appear more natural but less functional, as the masquerader must remove the mask for eating and drinking, and speaking is obstructed by the lack of a mouth opening.

: