Hidden treasures

The ‘Bauta’, the mystery mask

Historical Curiosities
bauta-longhi

The ‘Bauta’, the mystery mask

Among the many masks that dominated the Venetian scene the most common was the 'Bauta', a male equivalent of the Moretta but, unlike the latter, it could be used by both sexes.

The Bauta was worn all year because it made it possible to hide one’s identity whenever desired. It consisted of a black cloak, the so-called tabarro, a tricorn and the 'Larva'. 'Larva' is a term derived from Latin which means 'ghost': it was in fact a white mask that was particularly popular thanks to its simplicity and because it allowed people to move around the city in total anonymity. However, there was another aspect that made this mask particularly sought-after: since it covered only the eyes and the nose, opening like a sail at the level of the mouth, it was possible to eat and drink without having to remove it and the broad tabarro allowed lovers to make love on the streets whilst shadowed by the surrounding buildings.

La Bauta, together with the female 'Moretta', became particularly fashionable during the eighteenth century in Venice, not only during the Carnival period but at any time of the year. Men and women of different ranks and professions could move freely and discreetly, performing actions that they would never have done in broad daylight.

There are several paintings in Venice that testify to the wide use of these particular masks and that allow us to imagine the practices and traditions of the Venetians of the time. Among these is the artwork 'Il Ridotto' (1757-60) by Pietro Longhi, now kept at the Querini Stampalia Museum in Venice. Looking carefully at the painting, we notice two Baute in the foreground: a woman wearing a cloak and a tricorn pretends to repel the man's advances whose face is hidden by the 'larva'. Behind them, two ladies wearing the Moretta are busy admiring the scene with the aim of capturing the attention of the seductive Larva, thereby hoping to spend an evening of revels and fun cautiously hidden by the mask.

Thanks to the work by Pietro Longhi and other historical and artistic testimonies, today it is possible to reconstruct the public and social life of eighteenth-century Venice and relish the masterpieces of the Mascareri art, still active in Venice, the city hailed as the queen of Carnival!

Do not miss the chance to visit Venice during the Carnival, the most magical festival of the year! On our website you can choose the best Carnival events to fully enjoy the charm and fun of this incredible celebration!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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