[man and woman with bauta]The Bauta wasn’t only used during the carnival; for the Venetians, it was used on a variety of occasions. The Bauta consists of:

  • a black veil or cloak

  • a black tricorn

  • a white mask

To the mask was attached a large black full-cut mantle which came down from the head over the shoulders to half-way down the body. On the head went the traditional three-cornered hat (the tricorn) and on the face a white mask which had a stretched-out protruding upper lip underneath a tiny nose which changed the tone of the voice thus making whoever wore this costume totally unrecognizable.

This mask was extremely popular with the Venetians, and they were prepared to pay large amounts to have the very best lace and the highest quality fabrics. In 1742, the “Magistrato delle pompe” attempted to stem this ridiculously wasteful practice with various decrees. The Venetians got round this decree by using their cloaks, extremely useful to both men and women, for hiding their magnificent costumes and precious jewels.

The bauta was worn by both men and women. It was obligatory for theatre-going women, but was forbidden to young girls waiting to be married.

During carnival Venetians , men and women alike, allowed themselves to break every law and the bauta was ideal for remaining anonymous and thus for getting up to all manner of mischief. It is said that even monks and nuns wore the bauta to disguise the occasional love affair. The cloak helped to hide people breaking the law during the carnival. It doubled up over the shoulders and was made of either cloth or silk according to the season, was either white or turquoise (or scarlet if a gala was on) and was sometimes frilly and sometimes had tassels (in the military style). It was very popular with women too (dark in winter, white in summer).