The Faces of Masquerade
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The Faces of Masquerade

A masquerade ball is an event which the participants attend in costume wearing a mask. It is a costumed dance event or a ceremony - a rite or cultural event in many parts of world. These gatherings, parties and carnival celebrations were paralleled from the 15th century by increasingly elaborate pageants, processions celebrating weddings, allegorical Entries and dynastic events of the late medieval court life.

THE FACES OF MASQUERADE

A masquerade ball (bal masqué) is an event which the participants attend in costume wearing a mask. It is a costumed dance event or a ceremony - a rite or cultural event in many parts of world

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These gatherings, parties and carnival celebrations were paralleled from the 15th century by increasingly elaborate pageants, processions celebrating weddings, allegorical Entries and dynastic events of the late medieval court life.

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MASKED LOVERS

The "Bal des Ardents" ("Burning Men's Ball") was intended as a Bal des sauvages ("Wild Men's Ball") a costumed ball. It was a marriage celebration of a lady-in-waiting of Charles VI of France's queen in Paris on January 28, 1393. The King and five courtiers dressed as wild men of the woods, with costumes of pitch and flax. When they came too close to a torch, the dancers caught fire. Costumed dances were a special luxury of the court of the duke of Burgundy.

During the Renaissance in the 16th century, Masquerade balls were extended into costumed public festivities in Italy. They were generally dances held for members of the upper classes, and were particularly popular in Venice. They have been associated with the tradition of the Venetian Carnival. But with the fall of the Venetian Republic at the end of the 18th century, the use and tradition of masks gradually began to decline, until they disappeared.

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Masquerade ball at Château de Hattonchâtel, France.

Masquerade ball became popular throughout mainland Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. The party mask was not just sources of fun at parties but tragedy as well. Gustav III of Sweden was assassinated at a masquerade ball by disgruntled nobleman, an event which Eugène Scribe and Daniel Auber turned into the opera "Gustave III." The same event was the basis of Giuseppe Verdi's opera "A Masked Ball."

In the beginning masquerade masks were simple yet beautiful. They have evolved into gorgeous masks adorn with beads and feathers that can either totally hide the identity of the person wearing it to just being masks on a stick for cover for the eyes.

John James Heidegger, a Swiss count was credited having introduced the Venetian fashion of a semi-public masquerades ball when he arrived at London in 1708. It was first held at Haymarket Opera House.

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HAYMARKET OPERA HOUSE

London’s public gardens like Vauxhall Gardens, refurbished in 1732, and Ranelagh Gardens, provided outdoor settings, where characters masked and in fancy dress mingled with the crowds. The reputation for unseemly behavior, unescorted women and assignations motivated a change of name, to the Venetian ridotto (masked gathering).

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Throughout the century, masquerade dances became popular in Colonial America. Its prominence did not go unchallenged; a significant anti-masquerade movement grew alongside the parties themselves. The anti-masquerade writers held that the events encouraged immorality and "foreign influence". While they were sometimes able to persuade authorities to their views, particularly after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, enforcement of measures designed to end masquerades was at best purposeless, and the masquerades went on as semi-private "subscriptions".

Masquerade balls were sometimes set as a game among the guests. The masked guests were supposedly dressed in costumes so as to not be identified. This would create a type of game to see if a guest could determine each others' identities. This added a humorous effect to the party.

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PALLAZO LABIA, VENICE

One of the most noted masquerade balls of the 20th century was that held at Palazzo Labia in Venice on September 1951, hosted by Carlos de Beistegui. It was dubbed "the party of the century".

A new resurgence of masquerade balls began in the late 1990s in North America and is still held today, though in modern times the party atmosphere is emphasized and the formal dancing usually less prominent. Less formal "costume parties" may be a descendant of this tradition.

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THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH

The beautiful quality of the masquerade ball has made it a favorite topic or setting in literature. Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death" is based at a masquerade party in which a central figure turns out to be exactly what he is costumed as. "Regency" romance novels, which are typically about Britain's upper class "ton" during the 1800s, often make use of masquerade balls as settings, due both to their popularity at the time and to their endless supply of plot devices.

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Masquerades are the centers of multiple operas. The musical and movie "The Phantom of the Opera" has a very important scene in the story line that take place at a masked ball.

Reference and Picture Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masquerade_ball

http://www.victoriaball.com/history.htm

youtube.com

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Comments (6)

well illustrated and very informative..thanks

Thank you Abdel-moniem for the kind comment.

Superb, I love this topic, another good one Ron, as ever.

Thanks a lot Dee for the kind comment.

Superb work, Ron. A very thorough analysis of this fascinating phenomenon and the ways it has been represented in popular culture.

Thanks Michael.

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