The Moretta mask is one of the most traditional designs of Venetian masks. Originating in France it was quickly taken up by the fashion conscious Venetian women who loved the way the mask accentuated the soft feminine lines of the female face. Its popularity was short lived as by 1760 it had disappeared.
The Moretta mask was oval in shape with no mouth opening, just eye holes.Traditionally the mask was worn with a veil so giving total anonymity to its wearer. Originally made of black velvet the features are expressionless. It was designed without ties to secure it in place relying Instead on a button a button sewn on the inside of the mask which was clamped in the mouth of the wearer, so keeping the mask in place and rendering the wearer mute. This is why the Moretta mask is also called the Servetta Muta meaning mute maid servant.
The lack of verbal communication this mask imposed meant that Venetian women had to use their body language to communicate. It encouraged coquettish behavior, the tilt of the head,the fluttering of eye lashes, the touch of a hand all became an intricate part of flirtation.Its expressionless face meant that the female wearer had to use her body to communicate, much as a mime artist would today. When worn, the Moretta mask accentuated all the attributes that Venetians considered to be the height of desirability and femininity.
The moretta mask was worn to gambling houses, for affairs and when visiting convents where vows of silence were observed.
Thankfully todays Moretta masks are designed with ribbon ties to secure it. The button has been left in an era where women’s views were seen as unimportant and where they were judged on their physical attributes alone. They can be crafted from leather, cloth or paper mache. Most are still blank in either black or white as tradition dictates. If you wish for one that is a little more decorative there are designs that have been embelished with gilded macrame and crystals. Although not historically correct these do look superb when worn and also make lovely wall decoration. The leather Moretta masks are probably the most comfortable, allowing the skin to breath and molding to the shape of the wearers face.
Although simple in its design and somewhat inconvenient to wear, this mask still holds a fascination for us today. Its expressionless façade imbibes its wearer with an ethereal look which captivates our attention wherever it may be worn.