In Europe around this time of the year we celebrate Carnevale, or Mardi Gras. The Christian calendar marks Carnevale as the period between the Epiphany and the first day of Lent, this being the day when all the fatty food must end until Easter Day. In Austria and Bavaria, Carnevale called Fashing starts the day of the Epiphany, in Cologne it starts at 11:11 of Nov.11.
At Mardi Gras, the day before Lent, we Europeans consume a variety of meat dish, food high in calories and proteins, lot of fried food and stuffed food, but on the Lent day and for forty consecutive days, until Easter, the diet must be light and lean.
In Carnevale time every trick is expected and accepted. I remember the sugar, or the white flour being thrown at the passerby in the streets, especially if they were wearing a dark coat. Getting mad was out of the question, next street corner it would have happened again. In the history of time, Carnevale has been a magic time of divertissement, debauchery, costume parties, eating, unrestrained sex, and a time during which life challenges were momentarily forgotten.
The etymology of the word Carnevale could be deriving from the Latin “carrus navalis” or from the Medieval “carnem levare” which it means to eliminate the meat from the diet for 40 days as the Lent requires. On Ash Wednesday, Christian people must spread ashes on the forehead as a sign of repentance.
During Carnevale it is a must to wear masks to disguise one’s identity, but the usage of masks is not a novelty of today, it goes back to Paleolithic time, when the chief of tribes wore masks during spiritual, or magical propitiatory rituals to invoke riches, or to get rid of maleficent spirits. Romans celebrated their Gods with Carnevale festivities. The use of masks concealed their licentious behaviors and their social status, allowing old and young, rich and poor, nobles, servants, slaves and prostitutes to mingle and dance together until dawn.
During the festivities of Carnevale, Romans celebrated Bacchus, the God of wines, with rivers of wines and long hours of dances all in the streets of Rome, hence the name Bacchanalia. The gladiators entertained the public and the king of the festivities, elected by the people for only the duration of the feasts, organized public games to which everybody could participate.
In Italy, masks for Carnevale have been used in theatre plays, especially in Goldoni’s comedies, a famous Venetian writer of the 1700 and in the Commedia Dell’Arte in the second half of the 16th century, based on improvisation on stage. Plays of Commedia dell’Arte are still fascinating and alive in the arts and in the memories of theatre lovers.
Carnevale in Venice, renowned all over the world, is a magical and mysterious event that takes place every year around February, it calls for unruly behavior and the masks are breath-taking. Browsing in costumes through the narrow streets of a foggy Venice is like walking in the 16th century. Everybody is disguised, people laughing, chatting, a glass of wine here, a dance there. Carnevale in Venice is what it was and still is.
Paintings of Venice Carnevale scenes, or paintings of masks can be included into today’s home décor very easily. Think about a room in a total white color scheme with very colorful paintings on the walls as the Geraldine Arata’s art work. She knows how to capture on canvas the mystery of Venice and the complicity of secretive lovers. Her oil paintings are beautifully executed, colorful and unconventional.
Another example could be a room painted in grey gun-metal faux finish with a modern style décor and Geraldine’s colorful mask paintings just laid casually against the walls, or hung on a wall washed with light. Loose white chiffon draperies swinging in the windows as a sweet melody in Venice would carry two lovers in each other arms.
Find Geraldine Arata at:
450 Columbus St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
As an Italian born designer and a lover of Commedia dell’Arte, I can help recreating the mystery of Venice, its flamboyance and Bohemian atmosphere into today’s home décor and I can help placing this particular art in a special home. It takes a sunny eye to see the sun light.
Copyright © 2010 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
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Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior and Fashion Designer, working in the USA and Europe. She combines well fashion and interior in any of her design work. She loves to remodel homes and loves to create the unusual. Author of the forthcoming book on the subject of Colors.
Author of the book: ©Come Mia Nonna–A Return to Simplicity