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Italian traditional masks for Carnival
Italian traditional masks for Carnival
During Carnival, our traditional masks become protagonists. Everyone loves them: tourists, adults, teenagers and children. In fact, wearing Carnival costumes and masks is a tradition truly embraced by all, regardless of their age.
In the last few years, Carnival has been more and more about dressing up like celebrities, politicians and cartoon characters, but our very own traditional Italian masks, everlasting and always recognizable, are the true essence of Carnival, itself, as they have been representing this time of the year for centuries.
Here are some of the more famous!
Pantalone is linked to the Venetian tradition and it is among the most represented masks in the Commedia dell'Arte.
The origins of his name are still unknown: some say it comes from Saint Pantaleone, while others maintain it derives from the Piantaleoni, the merchants who "planted" ( piantavano), San Marco's lion, symbol of Venice, in the towns conquered by the the city, where they would start making business. Pantalone is an ambiguous character: sometimes he is an old rich merchant admired by the nobility, other times he is an old merchant on the edge of ruin (Pantalon de'Bisognosi- Pantalon of the needful). Either way,he is constantly unlucky with women, whom he always tries to conquer, but without luck. He is very active in the field of business and that is why he neglects his family.
He was, in fact, the very symbol of that sense of trade and business animating Venetian middle-class' tradesmen.
Pantalone's costume is made up of a wool cap, a red coat, short trousers with a belt and a bag with a tissue hanging from it. He wears a black cloak with red lining and black slippers. His face is covered by a mask with a hooked nose, his chin by a sharp goatee he continuously caresses.
The origins of this mask are rooted in Bologna. Balanzone is a creation of the
He always talks a lot emphasizing his culture, even if most of the times he gives useless advice and his words have no actual meaning. He is presumptuous and says he knows every field of science, law and philosophy.
Brighella is a character of the Commedia dell'Arte born in Bergamo. He is often associated to the character of Arlecchino, as they both come from the same city, although Brighella makes a point of coming from North Bergamo and not from the Southern part of the city, home to Arlecchino.
Brighella works in several fields, but not always honestly as he tries to deceive others often simply for the sake of doing it and not for real needs.
He is intelligent and smart, but without scruples. Brighella often tells lies and he does it very well, with such a self-confidence they seem real. He is also very good at singing, playing and dancing.
Arlecchino is traditionally linked to the town of Bergamo, although his character may have originated from the the fusion of the Italian Arlecchino and the French Arlequin.
Among Italian masks, he is perhaps the best known and possibly one of the oldest. He is connected to the tradition of fairs, court jokers and theatre comedians. Arlecchino comes from Bergamo bassa, south Bergamo, but he tries to change his dialect into that of Venice.
At first he wore a total white costume that has then become multicoloured due its numerous patches.
Arlecchino is an extravagant person playing tricks to the people he works for, but he often doesn't succeed. He is usually lazy at work, but he enjoys chatting a lot. He is an accomplished acrobat and he is, probably, the best loved traditional mask in the country.
Colombina, little dove, is a female mask, representing the character of a servant. The name Colombina was given to her when the actress Isabella Franchini, who played the role, brought a basket containing two doves with her on stage.
Colombina is often vain and coquettish. At times, she also tells lies, but never maliciously. She is often associated to Arlecchino, who is considered her eternal fiancé. The Italian Carnival tradition always matches Arlecchino and Colombina. This funny and extroverted couple are always popular at Carnival and you will always find at least two people dressed up like them, if you have the luck to spend Carnival back in Italy!
Also look at this article on Pulcinella, one of the most famous Italian traditional masks