A Lesson in Debauchery Part 1
A Lesson in Debauchery
Masquerade! Hidden faces on display, oh Masquerade! Hide ones face and the world shall never discover your secrets!
Finely hand-crafted and high-quality Venetian Masquerade masks are an example of magnificent and breathtaking works of art. With their array of bright colours, adornment of feathers, crystals and other luxurious materials these beauties definitely are well worth their often hefty collector prices. Regardless of whether decorated with bold graphics, satin, lace or grotesquely lengthy noses that could make Monsieur Cyrano stand up and take notice, Venetian masquerade masks are indicative of the thrilling, vibrant historical past that surrounds this wonderful floating city called Venice
A Quick Look Into Debauchey’s Historical Past
The lights, the sound, the drinks go around but who hides behind the face of the clown as the lights go dim oh Masquerade!
Throughout the 13th century, citizens of the Venetian Republic had been, by reputation, excessively wealthy, some called spoiled and luxuriously decadent. Over some time, they started to realize that concealing their identity, would enable them to carry out their every day lives in complete secrecy without the threat or fear of retribution for the previous nights sins. With so much private wealth, the citizens of Venice frequently found themselves cutting deals and arrangements with their “neighbours” that extended beyond the confines of the law. Hence, the tradition of wearing a mask was born and quickly became an increasingly popular and acceptable social occurrence. When the citizens of Venice were wearing a mask their identity was concealed and subsequently their social status wasn’t known to others. This allowed both servants as well as upper statesmen to be treated equally as well and curtailed several forms of prejudice and inequality that was rampant at the time. Nevertheless, understanding that there would not be any repercussions for their actions, as no one from the night before could be identified, Venetian society quickly began to behave much more lavishly and without concern or fear or reprisal. As a busy metropolis boasting travelers on business, as well as visitors descending on the city almost daily, sexual promiscuity grew to become common place, gambling was occurring day and night and all sorts of some may consider “sinful” activity began to take grip of the city. Hmmm sounds a bit like Vegas?
The Face Fashions of The Day
The least costly masks were named Bauta, described as smooth, clean and plain looking with a short often pointed nose designed to disguise the mask wearer’s voice. Back in the 18th century they were generally accompanied by the black three-cornered hat along with a black cloak just as with the infamous scene in Amadeus! The pretty mask call Gnaga, which resembled a cat’s face, was often used by gay men to quietly “Meow” proposals to other good-looking men.
With this kind of rampant immorality and decadence, it’s a small wonder the religious and political leaders at the time desperately tried to curtail the wearing of masquerade masks especially towards the upcoming holy festivals, like Carnivale. Following the 1100s, masquerades went through years where they were outlawed by the Catholic Church, particularly during the holist of days. Nonetheless, this kind of policy was hardly ever observed, especially when authorities tried to declare the months occurring between Christmas and Shrove Tuesday as totally free of Venetian mask decadence.
Masquerade! Every masks a different shape, Masquerade! Every face is a different shade.
The well known “papier-mache” (meaning stuck-paper”) process often appears deceptively easy and in theory is should be. All one really needs is a good quality mold, some scraps of newsprint, some glue-like sticky paste, and viola, you’ve got false confidence staring right back at you. However, the real artistry of the talented Venetian mask makers in their creative ability to transform these lifeless and pale visages into something that’s alive and oh so provocative.
The mask making artists of La Fondazione, initially create a mold that’s made from a combination of liquid plaster, clay and glue. As soon as the mold dries, it’s then lubricated with some kind of removal agent such as Vaseline. Subsequently, it’s filled with numerous layers of special newsprint or paper. Every strip of paper has to be cut to a precise size and shape making it simple for the artists to easily press them inside the mold covering the entire surface over and over again. The paper strips are extremely thin, and the addition of absorbent layers will produce a mask that’s as durable as it is light and flexible. As soon as the paper is dampened, it’s spread over with wool glue. Ideally, the mold should be placed on a warm surface that is smooth and completely clean of any dust. Once the eye holes get cut, it’s primed to be decorated, adorned and transformed using acrylic based paint colours, silver leaf, gold, lacquer, varnish, costume jewels, fabrics, paste, aging oils, feathers and anything else one can think of. The artisans of La Fondazione will use particular techniques and strategies from painting, restoration and costume making and other disciplines.
Some Venetian Mask makers specialize in making their masks on the back of leather and are often just as artistically vibrant as those made from paper-mache.
Thinking of making a masquerade mask out of leather yourself? Here’s a quick guide on what you need and how to do it.
1. First off get yourself some veg-tanned leather about 6-8 oz or even a bit less if you want to make a lighter version. Most of the following materials can be bought online or at specialty craft stores located throughout North America.
2. Cut out a rough shape of what you would like and I’d recommend making a simple paper pattern initially
3. Soak the leather pieces in the fridge over night with sufficient water to soak through the leather to make it pliable enough for sculpting the next day.
4. Clean your face to get rid of any oils and place the wet strips of leather over your face and press firmly to shape and form it to the contours of your face. If this has been done correctly your mold will dry and retain the shape of your face, your body heat itself will help cure the leather as it dries.
5. As the leather begins to dry, feel free to exaggerate any feature you desire as the leather is extremely pliable at this stage of the process
6. Once your mask is completely dry you’re able to trim and paint it any way you choose, just be sure to find a paint that is made for leather based products, usually any quality water based acrylic will do the trick!