Carnival in Venice is probably the most famous Carnival of Europe. It lasts 12 days and ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

It is first mentioned in 1268.

VenetiëcarnavalThe famous artistic masks are not derived from the Carnival, but vice versa.
Venetians wore regularly masks on holidays a disguise in order to let steam off or live on or over the edge of the socially acceptable.

They made ​​themselves unrecognizable (for creditors) to participate in riotous activities as gambling, or to go to brothels. The prostitutes wore masks. Even to go to the theater ladies wore a disguise.
The wearing of decorative masks was in a large part of the year in order to hide customary social status. This allowed the Venetians to scrimshank for strict morality of the Catholic Church.

The masks were made of paper mache. In 1271 there was a school of such mascarieri. They had a special place in Venetian society with own mysterious laws and secret societies. From the 15th century the mascheri were elevated to artists.

After the twelfth century, the masquerade was banned for some time by the Catholic Church, especially during holy days. Eventually, the government regulated and determined that the months between Christmas and Shrove could be used for the decadent Venetian mask use.
From 1339 it was no longer allowed to go masked around in town at night.
After 1458 the wearing of masks was not longer allowed in churches, monasteries and holy places.
Since 1703, masks were also banned in the gambling houses.

Especially in the 18th century, the carnival was celebrated, and it took a month.
The infamous 18th century seducer Giacomo Casanova is probably the most famous maschiero. Not only as a favorite character in a masked carnival with music, but also in colorful stories about his adventures, he lives on.
After Venice came under control of Lombardy was wearing artistic masks considerably restricted. Napoleon even ever let abolish carnival around 1797 for the sake of debauchery during the celebrations. So this tradition became increasingly repressed and forgotten.

In 1978, the tradition was revived by a group of art students that opened the first modern mask shop in Venice. Nowadays, especially for tourists, an entire show has grown around there. The program begins with "Il Volo dell 'Angelo” (the Flight of the Angel) and ends with the 'Vogata del silenzio", a mysterious nocturnal procession of gondolas lit with candles, and masked rowers. Moreover, there is also the Great ball on the San Marco place with the traditional closing fireworks for the Doge's Palace.

In many modern mask designs people still recognize characters as
- Harlequin, a forerunner of the modern clown in love with Colombina,
- Colombia,
- Pantalone, a pathetic character of the Italian commedia dell'arte theater tradition. He is a sly, old, decadent, rich merchant who wants to gain money or seduce handsome women.
- Scaramouche (from the French, the Italian Scaramuccia = skirmish), the buffoon from the 17th - century Italian farces.