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On May 12 the New Orleans Museum of Art will fling open its doors for Masquerade: Late Night at NOMA, a costume party replete with float builders, mask-makers, circus acts, drag queens, live music and dancing till midnight — a reverie that may seem oddly out of season given that the city swept up the detritus of Mardi Gras more than three months ago.

The “City That Care Forgot” requires little prodding to don a disguise no matter the time of year, but this late-spring Carnival-style soirée would be even more familiar to fun-loving 18th-century denizens of a city an ocean away that has been the focus of a three-month exhibition now in its final days of display.

A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s, on view through May 21, features paintings, Murano glass, gondola models, ceremonial costumes, marionettes, gilded furniture, and vintage masks that bring to life the pageantry and frivolity of a time and place that appears to be consumed with the pleasures of life.

Pietro Longhi, "The Perfume Seller", c. 1750-1752

Gabriel Vella, "The Women's Regatta on the Grand Canal", Before 1792

Gentleman's Tailcoat & Breeches

Workshop of Pietro Longhi, "The Ridotto" (Gambling Hall), 18th Century

La dolce vita for Venetians of the 18th century included a Carnival season that spanned a full six months of the year — an exhausting concept for even the most die-hard of New Orleans’ partiers — and the primary reason so many men and women depicted in paintings throughout the exhibition appear in masks.

The longevity of pre-Lenten festivity is one of many surprises to be found in the exhibition. NOMA invites visitors to discover other little-known holiday rituals, historic figures and unusual competitions from the fabled city long known as the “Queen of the Adriatic.” Here are three more revelations to be made beyond the brushstrokes and display cases.

Island Getaway
Another amusing nickname for Venice was applied by famed German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Upon approaching this cosmopolitan archipelago for the first time, a city buzzing with maritime activity and linked by canals and bridges, he declared it a “beaver-republic.”

[In 18th century Venice], Carnival season spanned a full six months of the year — an exhausting concept for even the most die-hard of New Orleans’ partiers. David Johnson, Editor of Museum Publications, New Orleans Museum of Art

O, FORTUNA!
An allegorical painting depicting the military triumph of Doge Francesco Morosini portrays the victorious general in a large wagon-style float pulled by elephants and filled with Roman deities representing his finest attributes. The figures of Fame, Prudence, and Diligence are among his companions, along with another divine being familiar to fans of New Orleans literature: the goddess Fortuna, a notoriously fickle immortal who dictates the fate of Ignatius O’Reilly in John Kennedy Toole’s 1980 novel A Confederacy of Dunces.

FROZEN IN TIME
Eighteenth-century Venetians are depicted on canvas in all manner of amusement. In feats of derring-do, they zip-line over piazzas and form human pyramids. Women are seen vigorously rowing boats in an annual regatta. Two teams of men wrestle each other on a bridge as spectators cheer the melee and hats tumble into the waterway. Perhaps the most unusual scene is found in the painting by an unknown artist of Venetians slipping, sliding, skating, and sledding — many in masks — on a lagoon that has frozen over during an unusual winter cold spell in 1708. Though Mediterranean in climate with foggy, rainy winters and temperatures that rarely dip below the freezing mark, there are recorded instances of extreme arctic fronts.

Masquerade: Late Night at NOMA takes place May 12, 2017, at the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park from 5 p.m. – 12 a.m. New Orleans Carnival clubs, including the Krewe of St. Anne, ‘tit Rex, Krewe of Kolossos and the Merry Antoinettes, will be represented, along with the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians, drag performances, and live music from the Melatauns and Panorama Jazz Band.

Tours of A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s, specialty cocktails, and a Twitter contest to identify “Yas Queens” in works of art throughout the museum will also be part of what promises to be a lively evening filled with surprises.

Costumes are encouraged, but please note some restrictions. Masks must be handheld or easily removable. For safety concerns, NOMA asks that masks not obstruct the entire face, or have any protruding parts (crowns, noses, etc).

A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s remains on view through May 21 during regular museum hours. For admission prices and other information, visit noma.org or call 504.658.4100.

Main image: Joseph Heinz the Younger, “Perspective Map of Venice”, c. 1648-1650.

Our Local Publisher Partners

The Arts Council of New Orleans

The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

WWNO

WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

WWOZ

WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

PRC

Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

NOMA

As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

Southern Food

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

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