Venezia header: Piazza San Marco - Riva degli Schiavoni


... of the Nobles & Rich, of course

Pietro Longhi: "Colloquio tra Baute"
(Meeting among Bauta masks)
oil on canvas (18th century) - detail

We have to take in consideration that being outside during Carnival time, in Venice, it's cold, and damp, and cold again.
February, March, end of winter, but usually quite miserable to hang around the city streets.

And if you lived in the XVI century, even in a rich Venetian house, you might be used to not being perfectly and comfortably warm.

But going outside, in the non-protected area of a damp city, you better take care of yourself.

So we see all these "Carnival outfits" being made of heavy tissue to protect your body from a few hours out in the open air, and some classic items are clearly noticeable.

Let's call it Venice Carnival Fashion Code, and it was a starting point for what people would wear in their everyday outside life, and Venetians have always been very picky about dressing, very classy and elegant.

There had been laws, at the time, trying to limit the use of elegant tissues, but to no avail, as it can be easily imagined.

TRICORNO - Tricorn Hat

When an item is Universal

TOP - a classic tricorn with golden trimming on the top border
BOTTOM - Alessando Longhi: "The Moorish Juggler"
Etching and engraving on paper - ca. 1750-1760

As we can observe in most images about the Venice Carnival, the Tricorn was used in those times by almost every man who could afford to buy it. Even the young kids helping the magician here in this engraving would wear one.

It was the typical men's hat used all over Europe during the XVIII century, then it fell out of fashion.

One of the non-secondary advantages of the Tricorno during Carnival, was that it would hold the mask in place, so no need of straps, more comfort for the user.

"O'la gente che qui stassi raccolta
Del Moro ai canti,
et i detti strani intenta:
Movendo a riso chiunque
il mira e ascolta
Della Piazza il trastullo egli diventa."

"Here's the people collected here
from the Black guy's songs,
and which is intentely listening to them:
Making everybody laugh all
who look and listen to him
He so becomes the fun of the Square."

BAUTTA (BAUTA) o VOLTO - Bauta mask

The Real Venetian mask

TOP - a typical Bauta mask and a Moretta mask
BOTTOM - Francesco Maggiotto: "Three half-figures from a Venetian Carnival" - etching & engraving - 1760-1800

Venice has always been a quite crammed city, everyone knew (and talked about) everybody else, freedom was ... Carnival and a Bauta mask.

The Bauta was also a way of hiding the owner's identity, and had a big advantage: you could keep it on all the time, eat and drink with it, and you would take it out only behind closed doors . Really convenient.

Men and women would wear it, although usually women preferred to wear a Moretta mask, more feminine and elegant.

The text underneath the engraving is from Horace's poem "The Folly of Love; or An Essay Upon Satyr Against Woman".

"Motus doceri gaudet Ionicus
Matura Virgo et fingitur artubus
Iam nunca et incestos amores
De tenero meditatur ungui."

"A grown up girl delights
to be taught Ionian dancing,
and is moulded in its techniques,
now already she also dreams
of illicit love from her tender fingernail."

ZENDALE or Cendale - Silk lace Shawl

A neck wrap with many uses, also for men

TOP - A traditional Zendale
BOTTOM - Giovanni David:
"Le Zendale - Ou la Femme, qui revient de l'Eglise."
(The Zendale - Or the Woman, returning from Church.)
etching and aquatint on laid paper (1775)

The Zendale was the typical shawl that women used to go to church. But it got used also by men in their Carnival attire.

I am talking about the more classic Carnival period, the XVIII century.

In this ironic print by Giovanni David, we have it shown in its use, but who knows if the lady was coming back from Church ... or else.

And the dog too has something to complain about, and asks its owner:

"Atten donc, et permets que je preche à mon tour"

"Hey, listen and allow me to preach in my turn."

TABARRO - Heavy Winter Cloack

A men's item that could be used by everybody

Giovanni Grevembroch: "Nobile in Tabarro"
pen, ink & watercolor (18th century)

Made of wool, usually black, it's a cloack that covers the user's body as much as possible. Venice's cold and damp during winter.

It uses a whole lot of tissue (20 feet), and there had been quite a bit of Venetian regulations to limit the quantity of fabric used. Little respecrted, of course.

An evolution of the ancient roman toga, born after the Middle Ages and used by almost everybody, rich and poor: the most democratic garment ever designed.

Traditionally,  men, more than women would wear the Tabarro, but cold weather makes the rules, usually.

And it was practical, not so cheap, but neither that expensive (poor people would wear shorter cloacks) warm and maintenance free.

The simplest items always win, this is my philosophy too. Make it simple, dummy!

CHOPINES - Wooden Shoes Extenders

Against muddy streets and in favor of Elegance

TOP - Two models of Chopinhes. The highest one was more for looks than anything, because balance was really precarious.
BOTTOM - Pietro Bertelli: "Cortigiana Veneta" engraving (1594)

Chopines are a type of women's platform shoes that was popular in the XV, XVI and XVII centuries.

Sort of wooden clogs, initially just used to help to avoid dirtying your feet with the mud that was in all streets in those times, including Venice.

But then it became also a fashion/economic must-have: the higher the chopines, the higher the status of the wearer, reaching sometimes the 20 inches height.

You needed somebody to help you walk, at this point, and two servants would solve the problem.

The Maggior Consiglio di Venezia, on March 2, 1430 came out with a law, to limit the height of chopines to four inches, but this regulation was widely ignored.

Chopines were usually made of wood or cork, the classier ones covered with leather.

Venetian women are not known - even nowadays - for being "that tall", and fashion is always fashion, and what you don't do for being the most attractive!

Chopines helped a little bit.

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