Perhaps the phrase “history repeats itself” has never been more relevant than it is at the moment. Although it’s hard to believe, there was a time long ago when mask-wearing was a common practice, although the reasons for its use were a bit more exciting than sanitary grocery shopping.
A former weapon of seduction, a plague doctor’s uniform, and a comedian’s theatrical costume, the Venetian mask is undoubtedly an item steeped in history and tradition. That’s what the founders of Ca’ Macana believe, and the meticulous craftsmanship they put into each handmade mask is further evidence of their passion.
Ca’ Macana is a mask workshop in the center of Venice which has been operating since 1984 although their techniques stretch back much much further. You know, like, centuries back. The founders, Mario Belloni and his wife Antonella Masnata, opened their workshop in the 80s when Carnivale began to see a new Renaissance after decades of decline. At that time, there were no authentic masks available in the city - just glass replicas or plastic souvenirs. Thus, they set out to restore traditional integrity to the art of mask-making and the workshop was born. Nowadays, Ca’Macana is still a family run workshop, continuing the tradition of mask-making with the help of the next generation, Davide and Eloisa Belloni.
Each mask is handcrafted by an expert artisan using gesso molds and papier-mâché, often drawing upon the images from illustrations or paintings from the time period for stylistic accuracy. The result? A customized mask created in true historical fashion. How is that for authenticity?
If you’re ready to spice up your quarantine routine and enjoy a piece of Italy from the comfort of your home, you can purchase their masks directly on their website here. They are also running special sales during this time; keep an eye on their social media feed to keep up to date with their offers. Otherwise, why not start dreaming about making your own when it’s safe once again to visit La Serenissima? Apart from operating as a store, Ca’ Macana also offers mask-making workshops, mini lectures, and decoration workshops for families, friends, or any interested individuals, so that they can truly immerse themselves in the art of this tradition.
Almost forty years after opening, Ca’ Macana continues to provide one-of-a-kind Venetian masks to people from all over the world. The masks have been featured in a number of film productions such as Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick and Fifty Shades of Grey in addition to debuting at the Vienna Opera and in fashion photography for Vogue Japan.
The crew at Ca’ Macana caught our attention not only due to their talent and craftsmanship, but also because of the values they uphold. Like Prontopia, Ca’ Macana supports slow travel and responsible production, economic growth in their own community, and a commitment to authentic, Italian tradition.
Be sure to check out their website here and learn more about the mask selection and intrigue behind this Venetian tradition.
A labyrinth of picturesque canals and narrow alleyways, Venice can be a tricky city to navigate. Fortunately Prontopia can help you arrive at your destination - or in this case to your mask-making class! - on time and stress-free. We’ll be here when you’re ready!
Address: Dorsoduro 3172 30123 Venezia
Phone: +39 041 5203229
Photos courtesy of Ca' Macana
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