It’s nearly Mardi Gras already, so it’s high time that I gave a nod to the Venetian masquers of old, who eerily drift through Encyclopedia of the Exquisite. For over half the year, from early October through Lent, the nobles of that city wore masks during the early 1700s. Cloaked, hooded and capering around in their stark black and white masks, they bring otherworldly mystery to the city’s every day events, as depicted by those great Venetian artists Longhi, Guardi and Tiepolo.
The Doge demanded that the upper classes wear the black capelet and white half-mask combination called the buata—the sound used to scare little chidren, “bau, bau.” But some women donned the even more disturbing moretta mask, a black velvet disc held in place by a button clenched between the teeth. Their faces were like negative images. They were silent, lest they let the button slip. I with I could have been there to see it all.