The World of Masks


If you are intrigued by how masks fits into the worlds of play, art, ritual or disguise, and make-believe, there is a treasure trove of information waiting for you. Here are my suggestions:

  • The Mondonovo Mask Museum
  • Malo (near Vicenza): Visit the website. Mondonovo was one of the earliest and most famous mask shops in Venice, owned by mask-maker Guerrino Lovato.  The shop closed in 2011 and he moved his collection of masks and molds to the town of Malo, near Vicenza, where he has rebuilt his shop as a museum-workshop in the Palazzo Corielli.  Entrance is free; public bus from Vicenza, distance 12 miles.  Bus station of the FTV lines is to the left as you exit the train station at Vicenza; take bus 13 or 14. The trip takes about half an hour, but buses are not frequent. Contact the museum for transport options.
  • The Museum of Mediterranean Masks
  • Mamoiada (Sardinia): If you find yourself in Sardinia, this town is famous for its prehistoric Carnival rituals and masks. Its museum site shows their primitively terrifying masks, and gives history of their Carnival as well.  This Carnival is the complete opposite of Venice’s festival, but it provides a clear vision of what Carnival was like when pagan rituals appeased the gods. 
  • Masks of the World: Visit the website. Passionate collector Bob Ibold is “The Mask Man”; his site shows a wide variety of masks from around the world and his answers to readers’ questions are very interesting, a sort of “Antiques Roadshow” of masks.  After looking at some of these masks, you’ll think the Venetian variety is very tame indeed.
  • Ca’ Macana, one of the shops that made masks for the movie “Eyes Wide Shut,” offers classes where children and adults can decorate their own masks. Ca’ Macana now does some commerce via the Internet, here: Visit the website.
  • The Same goes for Kartaruga: Visit the website.

Carlo Setti’s leather mask shop, La Pietra Filosofale, has no website, no advertisements, and not even a sign over the door. So you have to hunt to find him. Here is your first clue:

  • San Marco 1735 (Frezzeria)
  • 30124 Venezia
  • phone: 041-528-5885
  • L’Arlecchino, the shop also is not on the web.  But the shop is marked by its name, here:
  • San Polo 789 (Ruga Vecchia S. Giovanni)
  • 30125 Venezia
  • Proprietress: Marilisa Dal Cason
  • phone: 041-520-8220

And last, two good books on the subject:

  • “Masks and Masking: Faces of Tradition and Belief Worldwide,” by Gary Edson.
  • “Masks: Faces of Culture,” by John W. Nunley and Cara McCarty

© 2020 Erla Zwingle, all rights reserved. Under exclusive license to Craftsmanship, LLC. Unauthorized copying or republication of this article is prohibited by law.

Published: December 1, 2016