Painting

Venice Carnival in Paintings

Magda Michalska 10 January 2022 min Read

Venice is stunning all year round but during the carnival month, it becomes even more charming and mysterious. One stumbles upon princesses, pierrots, dukes who hide their faces behind lavish masks. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Venice, join us at the masquerade ball!

Origins

Pietro Longhi, Masked Party in a Courtyard, 1755, Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri, Venice Carnival In Paintings
Venice Carnival in Paintings: Pietro Longhi, Masked Party in a Courtyard, 1755, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO, USA.

The carnival celebrations began in Venice sometime in the 12th century. They became more official in the Renaissance, but it flourished the most during the Baroque period and it was used to promote the magical image of Venice in the world. With the fall of the Venetian Republic, the festival was outlawed entirely in 1797 by the Holy Roman Emperor when even masks became strictly forbidden.

Activities

Antonio Corpora, Carnival in Venice, 1996, private collection, Venice Carnival In Paintings
Venice Carnival in Paintings: Antonio Corpora, Carnival in Venice, 1996, private collection. WikiArt.

Before it was outlawed at the end of the 18th century, the carnival would usually begin with a series of balls in St. Mark’s Square (if you visit Venice, go to the famous café Quadri’s where you can see a fresco depicting one of such parties). If somebody liked taking risks, every night of the carnival fortunes were squandered in the Ridotto Gambling casino.

Masks

 Antonio Donghi, Carnevale, 1923, private collection, Venice Carnival In Paintings
Venice Carnival in Paintings: Antonio Donghi, Carnevale, 1923, private collection. WikiArt.

Nobody knows why Venetians began wearing masks. One scholar claims that it was caused by the extremely rigid class system ruling in Venice, but during carnival the usual order was overthrown: the poorest beggar could pretend to be the richest man. 

Today

Francesco Guardi, Carnival Thursday on the Piazzetta, 1770, Louvre, Paris, France, Venice Carnival In Paintings
Venice Carnival in Paintings: Francesco Guardi, Carnival Thursday on the Piazzetta, 1770, Louvre, Paris, France.

This year the carnival starts on Sat, Feb 12 and it will last until Tue, Mar 1. The festival will feature many traditional events such as the Flight of an Angel over Piazza San Marco, or the beauty contest for Venetian girls, or the contest for the most magnificent mask, and many many ravishing balls. For info click here!

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