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THURSDAY, JANUARY 26, 2017 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS experts: the mask-makers of Venice. Sergio Boldrin, along with his brother Massimo Boldrin, is founder and owner of La Bottega dei Mascareri, located at the foot of the historic Rialto bridge since 1984. For Boldrin, who has thirty-six years of expe- rience in the business, the masks are not merely a costume acces- sory, but rich works of art care- fully crafted using a centuries- old technique that transport the wearer to the strange and magi- cal world that was 18th century Venice. The exact date of when masks began to be worn in Venice has been highly contest- ed by scholars, and we may never know exactly when the tradition originated. According to Boldrin, "It began around the year 1260, from a guild of painters and artists who started creating masks for political pur- poses. The first masks were very grotesque. They had these noses that had a phallic symbolism. The poor would go to [piazza] San Marco to protest and they would dress up in a very poor fashion, wearing these masks made of papier-mache. They did it to scare, and to contrast the lavish costumes of the bourgeois class of that period." Boldrin's theory that masks began to be worn in the 13th century is supported by the fact that historians have discovered the oldest document pertaining to the use of masks in Venice. In 1268, this official record, issued by the Great Council, forbade masqueraders from playing the game of "eggs." It's a game associated with one mask that was particularly popular in Venice: Il Mattacino. During early mornings or, "mattinate," of the spring and summer sea- sons, mischievous young men would dress as clowns. Wearing a short, all white or multicolored garb, and donning a feathered hat, these masked figures were famous for taunting city dwellers by launching perfumed eggs at balconies, groups of people, and lovers canoodling in the streets. What started out as a game in the 13th century, evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the act of mask wearing took on a new meaning and role within Venetian society. In the 16th century, writers in Italy created La Commedia dell'Arte, "giving more dignity to those initial masks," says Boldrin. Masks such as Arlecchino, Pantalone, Pulcinella, Colombina, and Brighella became famous sym- bols of Carnevale. Davide Belloni, owner of Ca' Macana, also one of the oldest mask making workshops in Venice that preserves the ancient craft, explains, "The disguise takes away the responsibility of one's behavior. It always has this double meaning, to interpret a character, or figure which one isn't. So, the poor man becomes rich, the rich man becomes poor, The first masks were very grotesque. They had these noses that had a phallic symbolism Continued to page 3 Continued from page 1

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