I’ve written before of the theatrical traditions of the common styles of Venetian carnival mask, but seeing this one hanging in a window took me back to English tradition. The transformation of Nick Bottom by the capricious Puck to a man with the head of an ass was one of my first encounters with Shakespearean drama, but I never questioned why this particular beast was chosen. A comment on Bottom’s intellect? Or a play on words between bottom and ass? One source I’ve read suggests the reason was more likely one of practicality; the theory being that any dramatic company worth their salt would have had a fake head worn by riders of hobby horses, the steed being a ubiquitous feature of life in the 16th Century. It makes sense.
All the same, I’m not sure this would have been my first choice for the ball.
- Venetian Masks (zaiddor.com)