Twirling, gyrating, advancing then retreating the figure suddenly stops, holds a statuesque pose for only an instant, then rushes forward toward one of the hundreds of spectators crowding around in a large circle. Shrouded in black velvet trimmed with gold embroidery, the face is covered by a gold mask—only the eyes are visible, glaring, penetrating. The identity of the person behind the mask is a mystery.
The movements are graceful, seductive—it could be a woman but the body has a large frame, more that of a man. He, or she, charges up to a young man who has been persistently calling out, embraces him as if to bestow a passionate kiss, then suddenly releases him.
Instead the performer moves toward a tourist who is trying to photograph the dazzling display, searing blue eyes look directly into the lens, but then the actor dances away across the square before the would be photographer can get a shot off. The crowd rushes to follow, anxious to see more of this resplendent display.
Throughout the Piazza San Marco, in the heart of mediaeval Venice, hundreds of people are gathered in circles watching the poses and antics of other masked figures. The temperature barely manages to stay above freezing and the sun seems incapable of shining through the thick winter mist that envelopes the watery city, but none of this seems of any consequence.
Visitors and locals alike brave the wintry conditions to mill around in the piazzetta beside the Ducal Palace. Once only the nobility of Venice were permitted to walk here. Today the crowd laughs and jokes and carry brightly coloured balloons. At noon the Campanile will toll its bells, as it has for hundreds of years, the balloons will be released into the mists, and Venice will herald the beginning of Carnival. For the thousands who have flooded into the city to participate or simply watch the old traditions unfold for another year the muffling mist and freezing air surrounding them simply adds to the atmosphere.

People never seem to tire of watching the performances that go on throughout each of the 10 days of Carnival. Only late in the day as the afternoon draws to a close do the crowds start to thin in the Piazza.
The figure in the black velvet cape and gold mask glides swiftly past the onlookers and takes the arm of someone dressed as Pierot, intent on giving one last performance.
Together they rush from the square out under the arches to a place where gondolas are moored in the end of one of Venice’s many canals.

The late afternoon sun has finally managed to filter through the mist and paint a golden glow on the old buildings. As the pair stop on the narrow footpath beside the gondolas, they pose briefly for the hundreds of camera clicking admirers who have followed them out of the piazza.
Suddenly the gold masked figure embraces Pierot and slowly, sensuously, their masked lips touch. More than a hundred people have now gathered in the surroundings jostling and pushing for a glimpse of the would-be lovers whose identities remain a mystery.
“Again, again!” the crowd shouts, all eager to get a photograph of the encounter. The lovers however will not oblige and dance away through the crowd and along the old flagstoned footpath leaving the admiring throng and the slowly emptying piazza behind.


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Barrie Brown Photography

Copyright B. Brown 1999-. All images and text shown here are the exclusive property of Barrie Brown and may not be used, stored, reproduced or redistributed without the express written permission of Barrie Brown or his assigns.