The History of The Masquerade

A masquerade ball (or bal masqué) is an event which the participants attend in costume wearing a mask. (A masque is a formal written and sung court pageant.) Such gatherings, festivities of Carnival, were paralleled from the 15th century by increasingly elaborate allegorical Entries, pageants and triumphal processions celebrating marriages and other dynastic events of late medieval court life.

Masquerade balls were extended into costumed public festivities in Italy during the 16th century Renaissance (Italian, maschera). They were generally elaborate dances held for members of the upper classes, and were particularly popular in Venice. They have been associated with the tradition of the Venetian Carnival. With the fall of the Venetian Republic at the end of the 18th century, the use and tradition of masks gradually began to decline, until they disappeared altogether.

Masquerade ball at Château de Hattonchâtel, France.