Venice Carnival Costumes and Masks

Up to 3,000,000 visitors visit the Carnival of Venice, Italy every year. They come from around the world to see the splendors of Venice and enjoy a centuries old carnival tradition.

The Venice Carnival presents an opportunity to see the best art museums, European architecture, food and also the baroque Carnival costumes and masks. As a result, visitors have it all for 2 weeks every year at the Carnival.

The Venice Carnival is very popular and up to 3 million visitors come to enjoy it every year.

History of Venice Carnival

Venitian Arsenale
Venetian Arsenale

Historically, the origins of the celebration are in honor the “Serenissima Repubblica”. In the year 1162, the republic was victorious in a final battle with the Patriarch of Aquileia. As a result, when the citizens of Venice got word of the victory, they began to dance and celebrate in San Marco Square. Although the informal celebrations did not become official until the time of the Renaissance.

Unfortunately, in 1797 the rule of the Venetian Republic came under the control of the King of Austria. As a result, the Venice Carnival was banned and did not become officially reinstated until 1979.

This photo was taken in San Marco Square during the 2016 carnival.

Venice Carnival Masks and Costumes

Although Venice is very famous for it’s canals, it is the elaborate carnival masks and costumes which are the favorites during carnival season. As a result, the carnival atmosphere takes on a unique identity. The baroque nature of the Venice Carnival masks and costumes is amplified by the city’s unique architecture.

The mask designs have their origins in theater and also historical fact. Additionally, there is an annual contest which encourages participants to put on a great show. As a result, the unique designs of carnival costumes and masks are readily on display.

Volto Carnival Mask

Venice Carnival Volto mask
This is one of the fashion contestants at the carnival. She is wearing a version of the volto mask. It is made of stark white porcelain or plastic but it can also be decorated. In Italian, volto mans “face”.
This photo is of another fashion competitor. She is also wearing a version of the volto mask. Additional characteristics of the volto is that it has normal human features and it covers the entire face and chin. It reaches around the face to the front of the ears and is tied with a ribbon around the back of the head.

Bauta Carnival Mask

Venice Carnival Bauta Mask
The fashion contender on the right is wearing the bauta mask which is characterized by the prominent chin. This allows the person wearing it to speak or eat without removing the mask. This photo was taken in San Marco Square with the Church of St Mark in the background.

Baroque Volto Mask

Venice Carnival baroque Volto Masks
These fashion contestants at the carnival are wearing a more elaborate baroque version of the volto carnival mask.

Medico Carnival Mask

Venice Carnival Medico Mask
This “medico” mask is based in historical fact. It was worn by plague doctors when they were working with plague victims. The beak of the mask was stuffed with flowers and spice, at the time they believed this could prevent the person wearing it from becoming infected.

Campanile of San Giorgio dei Greci

Venice Carnival Costumes and Masks
The unique architecture of the city was also on display at the carnival. In this photo, the leaning Campanile of San Giorgio dei Greci is seen in the background behind these fashion contestants.

Don’t Miss the Venice Carnival

For first time visitors the Venice carnival makes a great introduction. The splendors of the Venice museums, art, and architecture are all on display in addition to the Venice Carnival costumes and masks. 

The “Bridge of Sighs” passes over the Rio de Palazzo connecting the Doge’s Palace to the Palazzo delle Prigioni (Prison Palace).