Venice Incognito: Masks in the Serene Republic

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University of California Press, Mar 2, 2011 - History - 317 pages
"Fascinating and richly developed. Venice Incognito is a contribution both to urban studies and to the carnivalesque."—Natalie Zemon Davis, University of Toronto

Venice Incognito is a brilliant reassessment of Venetian carnival and the peculiar phenomenon of masking in early modern Venice. Johnson's wide-ranging, insightful, and imaginative scholarship is matched by his fluid and accessible writing style. This book is that all-too-rare commodity: a scholarly page-turner.”

—Patricia Fortini Brown, author of Private Lives in Renaissance Venice

“This is a beautiful book about a strange subject: the custom among Venetian aristocrats of wearing masks in public. One of the most original works in early modern scholarship I have read in a long time, Venice Incognito will have a permanent place on most early modern historians’ shelves and will be essential reading for performance studies and theater history.”

—Edward Muir, author of The Culture Wars of the Late Renaissance

“In this fascinating book, the author cleverly balances the traditional concept of masking as an anti-authoritarian culture of dissembling with the idea of the 'honest mask,' which defends rank and the established order, and produces an excellent, nuanced, and well-written account of the carnivalesque in eighteenth-century Venice.”

—Aileen Ribeiro, author of Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe

“In this intriguing and thoroughly researched book, James Johnson takes the reader through the crowded calli, campi, and canals of Venice in search of the varied meanings of the mask in the history and culture of that city on the water. From masking’s first recorded appearance in the thirteenth century to its ubiquity in the carnival decline of eighteenth-century Venice, from the dissimulations of Giacomo Casanova to Arlecchino and the commedia dell’arte stage, from the social anonymity of the gambling halls to the socially charged debate over Goldoni’s radical unmasking of the actor, Venice Incognito traces the shifting functions of the mask and its implications. Just as importantly, the book challenges much conventional wisdom about masking and carnival itself.”

—David Rosand, author of Painting in Sixteenth-Century Venice


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Poquette - LibraryThing

Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) may be one of several cultural icons who gave Venetian carnival and masking a bad name. He claimed to hate deceit, but everyone knows that his life consisted of little ... Read full review


List of Illustrations
Casanovas Carnival 3
New World 13
Even Odds 25
Fat Thursday 35
Anything Goes? 41
City of Masks 47
Infernal Associations 54
Redeemed by the Blood 169
Carnival Tales 181
The Mask of Sincerity 192
Carnival Contained 203
Bitter Ash 215
After the Fall 237
Notes 245
Bibliography 287

Devils Dance 66
Unmasking the Heart 79
Age of Dissimulation 86
Acknowledgments 305
Index 313

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About the author (2011)

James H. Johnson is Professor of History at Boston University and the author of the award-winning book, Listening in Paris (UC Press).

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