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A typical Venetian disguise, considered the "national mask", which allowed the wearer to remain anonymous. By wearing a larva, the white face, distinctions no longer existed and everything was uniform: men, women, nobles, beggars or the young and old were all part of the same society "populated by ghosts", a term that some have ironically used to nickname those who wore this mask.

Although it is now solely tied to the seasonal event of the Carnival, the use of this mask (designed to maintain anonymity) is part of the mythology of the Bautta, as represented in certain paintings by Longhi and Guardi and as described in the reports of the secret police of the Serenissima, from which nothing escaped their notice. It is considered to be the original Venetian mask.

White and smiling slightly due to its wide protrusion designed to alter the voice, the Bautta contrasts with the black of the cloak (tabarro) and hat (tricorn). The white mask that covered the face was called a larva, a nickname used to indicate ghosts and spirits; seeing them walking in a city lit only by a few lanterns must have surely induced some fear. The most convincing etymology of the term is the one that goes back to the Bau, a children’s boogeyman who was, in fact, "black", even if this disguise was used by both sexes and was particularly appreciated by gamblers or those who frequented risky nocturnal meetings.

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Images gallery

Maschera le Bautte.
Volto di un uomo coperto dalla larva, la caratteristica mascherina bianca.

Published: Saturday, 02 March 2019 — Updated: Saturday, 02 March 2019