The Masked Ball, also known as the Masquerade Ball, is an unusual ball in which all the people attending it comes dressed up in exotic masks and elaborate costumes.
It has been held in the Western world for centuries and it used to be celebrated in a grand manner. This event made a comeback in the 1990’s in North America. In recent days the party ambience or the atmosphere is more emphasized and the dancing does not follow the typical formal pattern.
The themed and the costume parties that we have nowadays might have been descended down from this age old tradition.
The Carnival that used to be held in the 15th century had originally started this event. It involved pageants, Royal entries of the rulers and his representatives and victory processions celebrating various royal events and marriages. The Burning Men’s Ball or the “Bal des Ardent” was kind of a masquerade ball at which the ruler, Charles VI of France, did a dance performance along with five other French noblemen.
It was held on 28th January 1393 by King Charles’s wife, Isabeau of Bavaria, in the honor of the remarriage of one of her lady-in-waiting. The men were dressed as wild men of woods and the costumes were made out of pitch and flax. However while dancing four noblemen caught fire from a torch and died. Gradually these balls made its way into Italy during the 16th century Renaissance period. They were held as a public festivity and had extensive dance routine for the aristocrats and were gaining popularity mainly in Venice.
However when the Venetian Republic had a downfall at the end of 18th century, the tradition of wearing masks to such balls declined till it vanished altogether. The Masquerade Balls became popular throughout Europe in 17th and 18th centuries. Many times these balls had a fatal and dangerous ending. At one of these Masked balls Gustav III of Sweden was murdered by a discontented nobleman called Jacob Johan Anckarstrom. Later on this fatal event was also turned into theme of operas several times. Most of the masks used in these events came from Italy and Switzerland. The Mask balls gained popularity with time in the Colonial America however it had to face many challenges. A prominent anti-masquerade movement arose that said these balls encouraged foreign influence and immortality.
The main types of Masks-
- Masks with a stick: These types of masks were used for more casual events where the masks could be removed while eating, drinking or dancing as doing these tasks with masks on can be difficult.
- Head Masks: These masks had close resemblance to helmet. Intricate designs were done on them and they were also engraved with various gems and looked very graceful.
- Full-face Masks: These full-face white or black masks were heavily accessorized and bejeweled ostentatiously. These masks were used mainly for a completely veiled appearance and looked intriguing.
- Half-face Masks: These masks were the trendiest and most comfortable of them all. It could be found in varied range of styles and were also beautifully designed with various accessories and exotic feathers.
The Masked Ball served as a recreation for men and women. They dressed in elaborate costumes and masks in such a way so that no one could identify them. This created a mysterious ambience at the ball. It would thus be like a game for the guests to see that whether they are being able to identify a person correctly and sometimes leading to hilarious outcomes. The masked balls were thus grand and funny at the same time and were a more enjoyable form of typical formal balls. One of the most significant balls was held on 3rd September 1951 at Palazzo Labia and was hosted by Carlos de Beistegui. It was also tagged as the party of the century.