Venezia header: Piazza San Marco - Riva degli Schiavoni

BAUTA mask

(Bautta - Bavuta)

The Bauta is to be considered the traditional Venetian mask, the one mostly used to cover your features, made in a way that it is still possible to eat and drink without having to take it off.

The Bauta is usually white, and it is not only a Carnival mask, in the sense in those times it could also be used all year long, to protect one's identity. It consisted not only of the mask covering the face, but also of the finely woven lace (Zendale), and the black hat with three tips (tricorno).

The name bauta does not have up to now, a definite interpretation: it may came from the German "behüten" (to protect), as well as from "bau" (or "babau"), typical Italian representation of the monster, or bad beast, used by adults to scare children:

"Se non stai bravo
viene il babau e ti porta via …”

“if you do not behave,
the babau will come over
and will take you away …"


In a way, the Bauta was some kind of a social leveler: all ages, all social statuses could get together, all of them wearing a mask and concealing their true identity.

It was mandatory all year long for women who went to the theater and forbidden to girls waiting to be married.
Light and "comfortable", because of the narrow nose, the mask sort of modifies the voice pitch, and of course romantic encounters were a lot simplified, this way …

It is the more known / traditional / diffused Venetian mask, old women loved it (easy to guess why …) and it was even too often much used and abused.

It became a bad habit, though, along with its diffusion, and it was said that “not even the honest father may recognize his naughty daughter with a tabarro and bauta” and it can hide well one’s identity, what definitely was important in the case of … “adventures”.

Watercolor by Giovanni Grevembroch - "Mascare"
Giovanni Grevembroch: "Mascare"
pen, ink & watercolor (18th century)
Museo Correr - Venezia


Modern examples of the Bauta mask

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