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The High Art of the Mask

Many cultures have enjoyed the playful freedom one feels after donning a mask. But no place has taken these toys for grown-ups to greater extremes, both elegant and diabolical, than Venice. A tour ofthe world of Venetian masks, and their starring role in the mega-party called Carnival.

A CRAFTSMANSHIP photo essay
Story by ERLA ZWINGLE
Photography by RICCARDO ROITER RIGONI and ERLA ZWINGLE

When Toys Get Real | Craftsmanship Magazine, Winter 2016

When is a real city not real?

When it’s Venice. During Carnival. With masks.

There are hundreds, I think thousands, of Carnivals in the world, but the Venetian version is one of the most famous; every year more people come, drawn not only by the chance to wear (or at least see) fantastic masks and elaborate costumes, but to do so in a place that can seem like something you just dreamed up.

“It looks like a stage set.” I said it myself when I first came here and I’ve heard it many times since. What better place to indulge in make-believe than in the most make-believe city there is? Or to put on a disguise or frivolous outfit of some sort, to parade, to frolic, to take pictures of parading and frolicking? Carnival and Venice are the Scarlett and Rhett of European culture: they were made for each other.

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