Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Venetian Carnival and its Masks

I have arrived in Venice! Becoming part of a countless crowd of tourists assaulting the narrow lanes in an imaginary marathon with no finish line, I acknowledge that it is Carnival time in Venice.

Passing in Another Dimension 

At every corner you are invited to decorate and paint your cheeks, forehead or the contour of your eyes with colourful beanstalks. The fast footsteps through the Venetian scenery measured by the tic-tack of each passing minute is absorbing you out of your time into an imaginary one. All seems a fairy tale, a maiden's dream. And it is a true one: people slide gently on the mirror of the waters taken away by black gondolas.

On one of the lanes I spot the first mask: it is happy and sad at the same time. She plays the mandolin probably trying to conquer another mask behind the closed door. In the real world, the soul behind this mask belongs to a Milanese guy who ran away to Venice in spite his wife's disagreement. But you can't oppose neither the 919 years of tradition nor the fairy tale.

The Place of Magic

It's 11 am and the sun pierces the narrow lanes starting to flood them with light and life. I notice that a group of dwarfs in funny costumes and passing by. Above their heads, in the shop windows hundreds of soulless masks are waiting for a spirit to find their match. Higher on the facade of the building, on the crumbling plaster a Madonna is blessing each passer by. Everything is in its place and is scrutinized as it was, is and will always be.

The last check-point in this dream is a heart-shaped mirror where with my latest thought I leave my reflection wearing a Minotaur mask. Now I am ready to cross the Grand Canal over the Academy Bridge. I am all opened to absorb with every pore more colour, joy, emotion and light.

Let It Begin!

On my right is running a group of grannies dressed up as primary school students accompanied by a teacher who is threatening them with a stick. The group is hurried by the classic man on duty who is ringing the end of the break with a big bell. :-)))))

The statues decorating the Baroque facade of Santa Maria Zobenigo church seem to join the merry carouselle.

Piazza San Marco is packed. At midday the "white angel" will descend from the belfry tower announcing officially the beginning of the Carnival.

But until then I have some time to admire the masks that pose on the background of San Marco Basilica and the Doge's Palace.

The Masks and Their Charm

Golden, silver, round, egg shaped, covered in silk, feathers, rhinestones, precious stones, lace, turbans, embroidery, each mask is unique. The costumes are depicting different eras: XIVth, XVIth or XVIIIth century. I was impressed how each mask lets each photographer to take all his or her time to shot the perfect picture, regardless of how expensive or large your camera is. It is interesting to see the unwritten walks of life of the masks. There are ordinary ones but also refined masks, real loose cannons who pick up favourite devotees and abandon desuets.

There are sad or happy masks, with or without academic background in drama, ballet or choreography  masks with or without sponsors or sugar daddies.

They do speak only through their moves. Happiness, sad moments, boredom or genuine curiosity is read from their body language. Unfortunately you can't spot their eyes, only rarely. Same their lips. The mask becomes a fairy, the material side of a beautiful dream. That's why the photographer falls on his knee at her feet in a sort of adoration, imploring her in perfect silence and harmony a drop of her attention and a tear on her porcelain cheek.

When the artist with the camera receives this gift, a sparkle happens that is captured in the photography. The masks fatalle choose carefully their arenas as well as their victims. They are sunny places, by old columns, gates, balconies or the pier dotted with waves and gondolas. With this strategy the masks create a "sweet" space that will attract many photographers but only few will be chosen. The lucky ones will be offered few delicacies such as showing the tip of a shoe disclosed in the wowing whispering chorus, a move of the head, a quick glance reflected in the pawn feathered mirror.

The photo session ends when the mask decides to vanish the sparkle with a quick beat of the fan. I stand up, bow in sign of thank you while I depart. The mask acknowledges my thank and looks for another photography artist as without one she is fading slowly.

Useful Links: 
Official page of the Venitial Carnaval