VENICE MASTER ARTISANS: MASKS & VELVETS
In the Renaissance age, Venice could boast around 2.000 handlooms producing precious fabrics for European upper classes and ecclesiastical hierarchies.
Besides local products, the Republic imported a wide range of textile material from the Middle East and China, displayed at the Rialto market for demanding foreign merchants.
The topics of this tour are masks and velvets ateliers, still today part of a prestigious historic heritage.
After meeting your guide at the hotel, walk together to Luigi Bevilacqua textile workshop, the last one in town. Bevilacqua family retrieved about ten original 18th-century handlooms long after the Napoleonic domination.
At that time, a decree closed several workshops to prevent the competition with the French ones.
The company was established in 1875 and hired skilled silk weavers, apprentices responsible for loom maintenance, and designers capable of reproducing old patterns on paper, which became renowned throughout the centuries.
The current owner Luigi Bevilacqua handles an archive of over 3,500 different patterns, some of which are still in use for handmade fabrics.
On the ground floor, the store with fine purses, wallets, slippers, mantles, and pretty souvenirs will enhance the charm of your experience. All the items are made from silk brocades and damasks.
The next destination is a traditional mask atelier, established 25 years ago.
- Tragicomica mask-making workshop
- Bevilacqua hand-loomed velvet factory
Luigi Bevilacqua factory is the only one in Venice still operating with original handlooms.
However, other companies run stylish stores for those who love fine velvet accessories, fabric wall coverings, elegant brocade scarves, and smooth silk jackets. Lorenzo Rubelli is on top of the list in terms of reputation, exquisite taste, and variety of patterns.
Established in the late 19th century, Lorenzo acquired Giobatta Trapolin’s firm, known for traditional weaving techniques such as two-pile velvets, lampas, and soprarizzo.
Production evolved over the decades, moving towards Modern design without discarding the world-famous patterns once traded by Venetian merchants.
The showroom, located in St Mark district at Piscina San Samuele, offers a chance to learn about the local textile heritage and the latest trends in fabric-based ornaments.
Bevilacqua family is quite large and shares a passion for fabrics. Besides Luigi, his brother Mario owns two shops in the city center, filled with bizarre home furnishings, brocade style purses, all sorts of tapestries, and fabrics for curtains.
Patterns are definitely from Venice: winged lions, exotic fruits as pineapples, pomegranates, tulips, symmetrical doves, Lagoon ducks, and embroidered seafood on cotton bags. It’s a lot of fun, for sure!
As for masks, despite the amount of imported staff, the oldest workshops are worth spending some time there.
Interiors remind of circus-type atmospheres, a dreamlike world that takes you back to childhood, but with the awareness of an adult.
Usually, bulky masks are set in a far corner or hang from the ceiling like a chandelier, while regular ones are piled up and displayed on a large table. It comes naturally to try them all, forget about yourself and become someone else, which was one of the purposes of the art of disguising.
The information provided by your guide helps you understand the social role played by masks in the past.
They also fulfilled the urgent need for freedom claimed by women of any social class, who could conceal their identity in public and finally enjoy an outdoor lifestyle.
DRESS CODE AND ADVICE
- No dress code required
- This tour lasts three hours and costs 295 euros up to six people (not per person), only private parties. For larger parties send us an email!
- Due to the availability of the workshops, this itinerary does not operate on Saturdays and Sundays
- Fees: for both workshops min. 250 euros up to six people (not per person)