Note: The following images and information were taken from the Magic of Venezia Mask Story with their permission.
Venetians wore masks to protect their identity during promiscuous or decadent activities. Day or night, gambling could be found everywhere, including convents. Women wore revealing clothing; homosexuality, though publicly condemned, was overlooked by all. Even the nuns and monks dressed and acted like everyone else. Eventually, this hedonistic behavior became commonplace and the wearing of masks in daily life was banned except from October to Lent.
The masks were made from paper-mache and decorated with fur, fabric, gems, or feathers. Below are some of the more popular styles.
Gatto (cat) is the mask that my heroine, Marietta, wears in Venice in the Moonlight. Cats were so scarce in Venice that they became the subject of one of the most typical masks. (Today, though, Italy seems to be overrun with cats.)
Pierrot is the mask that my hero, Nico, wears. Pierrot is a stock figure in the Commedia dell’Arte. He is normally portrayed as personable, charming, and kind. He blames himself for imaginary wrongs and because of his trusting nature is easy to trick.
Bauta was the most popular type of mask. It was often worn with a black 3-pointed hat, a long hood made of satin and macrame, and long cape.
Dama, which has many elegant variations, corresponds to the ladies of the Cinquecento (the period of Titian) who covered themselves in jewels, expensive clothing, and elaborate coifs.
Zanni is the archetype of the comic servant characters of the Commedia dell’arte. Its name comes from Giovanni (also said Zan, Zane, Zuane), a typical name of servants whose forefathers emigrated in Venice searching for work from the valleys around Bergamo.
What mask would you wear?