In Venice Masks are Worn Now to Protect, Not to Amuse

Published February 7th, 2021 - 08:18 GMT

The Venice Carnival festivities should have already started, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made its annual appointment impossible. Last year authorities shut down the Carnival on its third day, just before Italy became the first country in the West to face an outbreak.

Now Italy has logged more than 2.5 million confirmed virus cases, including more than 88,000 deaths. A “surge” has taken on a different, more ominous context. 

Alleys are eerily empty. Italy’s current infection-control restrictions do not allow traveling between regions. Even if Carnival had been held, relatively few people would have made it to Venice.

The Carnival’s appeal is rooted back centuries, when, for a brief stretch in the run-up to Lent, the Catholic period of penitence that begins on Ash Wednesday, ordinary Venetians would strut about masks, taking on temporary new identities, and for a few days become indistinguishable from members of the proud maritime city’s ruling class.

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A man wearing a face mask walks past the shop and laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

A man wearing a face mask walks past the shop and laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a papier-mache mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a papier-mache mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi adjusts a xreation in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi adjusts a xreation in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a papier-mache mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a papier-mache mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi sets a traditional carnival costume in the shop window of his shop and laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi sets a traditional carnival costume in the shop window of his shop and laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

A reveller poses with a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

A reveller poses with a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

An employee (Front R) helps a reveller put on a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

An employee (Front R) helps a reveller put on a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

A reveller poses with a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

A reveller poses with a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Armando Bala, owner of La Bauta Mask and Carnival Laboratory and shop holds a 'Larva' mask in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

Armando Bala, owner of La Bauta Mask and Carnival Laboratory and shop holds a 'Larva' mask in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

A man wearing a face mask walks past the shop and laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a papier-mache mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi adjusts a xreation in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a papier-mache mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi sets a traditional carnival costume in the shop window of his shop and laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
A reveller poses with a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
An employee (Front R) helps a reveller put on a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
A reveller poses with a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Armando Bala, owner of La Bauta Mask and Carnival Laboratory and shop holds a 'Larva' mask in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
A man wearing a face mask walks past the shop and laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
A man wearing a face mask walks past the shop and laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a papier-mache mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a papier-mache mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi adjusts a xreation in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi adjusts a xreation in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a papier-mache mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi works on a papier-mache mask in his laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi sets a traditional carnival costume in the shop window of his shop and laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Mask artisan Hamid Seddighi sets a traditional carnival costume in the shop window of his shop and laboratory 'Ca del Sol' in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
A reveller poses with a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
A reveller poses with a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
An employee (Front R) helps a reveller put on a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
An employee (Front R) helps a reveller put on a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
A reveller poses with a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
A reveller poses with a traditional carnival costume in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Armando Bala, owner of La Bauta Mask and Carnival Laboratory and shop holds a 'Larva' mask in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP
Armando Bala, owner of La Bauta Mask and Carnival Laboratory and shop holds a 'Larva' mask in 'La Bauta' shop in Venice on February 6, 2021, as the traditional Venice carnival is being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marco Bertorello / AFP

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