Venetian Masks in style. The many types of masks and the material

By Rudmer Hoekstra (author):

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Making Venetian masks is not the exclusive privilege of Venetian artists. You will find professionals working with masks everywhere in Northern Italy. But also in Croatia on the Istrian peninsula across the Adriatic Sea.

And also in the Netherlands. Olga Dol has been making beautiful masks in Venetian style for years. A style that she learned to appreciate and also learned there.

She visits Venice regularly, and she is always learning new techniques and skills. The Venetian masks made by Olga are mainly made of plastic.

In Venice, you can buy basic white masks. Olga has purchased these locally on several occasions. You can edit it yourself.

Much more expressive than you sometimes see masks in Venice. The craftsmen in Venice simply have to stick to traditional patterns and design.

The masks in Venice

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Today, during Carnival, you can see a gigantic jumble of masked people in costume on St Mark's Square. People who pose and want to be photographed. The costume is often more important than the mask. You often see simple masks that make the wearers anonymous. The clothing is the most expressive part. Only in a few cases, there are highly decorated masks during the Carnival.

Those are the visible masks during the Carnival. The rest of the year, the focus is on the making of the masks. In the many small shops, often also the studio, the Venetian artists are painting their masks. They decorate them with thick lines, finish them with gold leaf, and finally give them a patina. This is the charm of Venice. You see artists at work with a handmade mask with a lot of history and story.

Having a chat with the owner of a shop or the artist is fun to do. Admiration for their work.

The Many Types of Venetian Masks and What's the Difference?

Venetian Masks Venice

Since the rediscovery of the masks in 1959, the development of the mask forms has really taken off. In addition to the traditional forms of the Commedia dell'Arte, newer forms have now emerged. Also, masks are made of other materials.

Craftsmanship is and remains an expensive business in Europe, so the handmade blank masks are already quite expensive. Add to that all the manual work and patination, and you explain the high price of the handmade Venetian masks.

With the industrial production of masks, the forms are different from the original, and the quality differs. Masks are made of thin plastic, but they are often weak and not easy to work with.

There are also masks made of different molding materials. These are sturdier and easier to work with. Often the reliefs can also be applied immediately so that they only need to be decorated afterward. Most craftsmen in Venice already use the latter type of mask, but they are still hand-painted in Venetian workshops.

Red Venetian Masks

Eye masks and a face mask are helpful. Because an eye mask can be worn with straps or held in front of the eyes with a stick. You can continue to eat and drink during a party with an eye mask. That's so easy.

It is better to hold the face mask with a stick. Such a Venetian mask has a closed mouth, and then you cannot eat or drink anything.

Masks of other materials

Eye Masks Venetian

The Venetian Masks are increasingly also made of ceramics. Especially for smooth faces, a high-quality plaster that cures porcelain-like and shiny is used.

Burano, the island next to Venice, is the island of the lace. There are also masks made of lace. They are simple eye masks that still emit a high degree of elegance due to their refined shape.

They are pressed into a wet mold with a lot of starch or a mixture of white wood glue and water. Once dry, the mask retains its shape but is nevertheless flexible enough to display over the face.

Leather is also such a material. If you use a thicker piece of leather, make it wet and smooth, you can press it into a shape and punch it out. The mask is then ready. Usually, these are the more decorative masks that are hung on the wall. Simple masks made of thin, supple leather can simply be cut out and pulled over a plastic mask.

Venetian masks are also made of metal. Fragile metal pressed into the shape of an eye mask or a Bauta mask with all kinds of recesses, grooves, and holes. Decorated with glitter material and glittering stones.

Venetian Masks in Miniature and Wall Decoration

You can also use Venetian masks very well as wall decorations. You also have them in miniature. This is handy because most tourists come to visit Venice outside the carnival time. And then you prefer not to wear a mask. You are usually the only one ;). That is why there are all kinds of miniatures or mask brooches for sale.


Most of the text and photos on this page have been used with the approval of Olga Dol. For more information about the Venetian masks, mask-making workshops, selling the masks, and buying the book; VENICE and its MASKS, go to www.olgadol.nl


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