Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A Light In the Dark: La Mascareta in Calle del Tentor

Since the end of the summer the calli I take through Santa Croce to pick up our son from school have been emptying out. First, the already-reduced number of tourists I passed (all from Europe) thinned and then zeroed out as the coronavirus re-surged; then the shops and businesses along my usual route (like everywhere in the city) were vacated: one of the best gelaterie in the city near San Stae, a well-established pastry shop, a respected upholsterer, restaurants and hotels... It was in this dispiriting context that the above image was taken, a dim light in the early dark of shortening days.

The shop is La Mascareta in Calle del Tentor, just around the corner from the church of Santa Maria Mater Domini as you head toward Campiello del Spezier. Its owner, Hama, is there at work each time I pass--a welcome sight.

Because of the huge number of fraudulent masks for sale online he prefers to sell directly from his shop, where the quality of his productions also distinguish them from the huge number of counterfeit masks being sold by hand in other shops around the city (he showed me today a recent news article about police discovering a stash of 42,000 such masks made abroad but labeled as being "Made in Venice"). And even the pandemic has not changed his feelings about this: he has his work to do, and will be ready for when visitors begin to return to the city.

In the mean time, if you are interested in buying an authentic mask hand-made and painted by a single artisan, you can contact him via his email:  

Like any other well-established artisan in Venice, he is experienced and adept at shipping his works securely all over the world.

Hama poses with what he told me remains (even since the pandemic) his favorite mask: the plague doctor, in its traditional form (in his right hand) and an ornate version (in left)

Hama told me it's interesting to observe that people from different countries tend to be drawn to a different range of masks: the French, for example, tend to be inclined toward masks that I'd describe as softer-tinted and romantically-illustrated, while many from Japan are first struck by masks whose ornamentation takes the form of an almost jewelry-like surface.


  1. Magical, fantastic scene - like a glimpse into a land of fairies and Wizards.

    1. That's how it strikes me as pass by, Ella, especially on the one afternoon I took the shot. It made me stop and turn around to do so, though I was hurrying to pick up our son.