Storia delle Maschere di Carnevale

The History of Columbine


The only female mask to establish themselves in the midst of so many male characters is Columbine, lively and clever servant. She is lively, lovely, lying, and is from Venice. It ‘s very fond of her mistress, as young and pretty, Rosaura, and just to make her happy is willing to combine tricks of cheating. Columbine has no sympathy for the owners grumpy and she slaps mercilessly those who do not respect her.


The Columbine mask is the evolution of a character in the “Commedia dell ‘Arte”: the Maidservant. This, before becoming progressively more graceful, moving from the pimp on sixteenth comedy to a gentle counselor in the eighteenth-century comedy, was partner in life and fortune of the minstrel, when recited on stage with him. The Maidservant originally old, appears bent and wrinkled while carrying a letter from his mistress, generally marked by a heart pierced by an arrow. Over time she wakes up, rejuvenates, becomes more provocative and becomes the Zagna, the companion of the Zanni (servant). It is from this last transformation that born the character of Columbine, which organizes burlesque love scenes on the scene when the Lovers bring their sighs.

Columbine mask is very old, her figure was already mentioned in 1530 in the texts of “Intronati Academics of Siena”. “Columbine” is also the title of a play by Virgilio Verucci which was published in 1628. The Columbine mask is already in the comedies of Plautus, among clever maids, cynical and flattering, always ready to suggest malices and cunnings to her mistress.
From ancient slave in ‘500 Columbine becomes the accomplice “Servetta”, interested in subterfuge home and loving of her mistress.
The name of Columbine appears for the first time in the company of Intronati around 1530 and it was made official shortly after when Isabella Franchini, famous actress who played the role, brought under his arm a basket in which we could see two doves.
Columbine prevailed only in the Seventeenth century in the Parisian theater. The name of Columbine is mentioned in the text: “Cicalamento in ridicolose canzonette”, or  “Marriage treaty between Buffetto and Columbine comedians”(1646) written by the famous Flip, Charles Cantu.


The costume of Columbine came up with countless variations: usually she does not wear a mask and shw wears a fitted bodice and a large flounced blue skirt. Her red jacket is fringed by a trimming of the same color of the skirt and her apron, fitted with pockets to put the messages of love, it is a pure white. On her head there is a “crest”, the tissue typical of the waiter stopped by a tape. The black shoes are simple but pretty with low heel and on the buckle there is blue ribbon.


Columbine personifies the type of comic pretty maid. She is attractive, smart, lively and she is the female image of Harlequin. For this is always the girlfriend or wife of Harlequin, and she took the name of Betta, Franceschina. Diamantina, Marinetta, Violetta, Corallina or Arlecchina. On representations she is often the subject of attention by Pantaloon, and that causes the jealousy of Harlequin.
Columbine is very vain and a little flirtatious and she always wants to look neat and attractive. She did not mince words and is able to fix the suitors who do not behave politely. Even her eternal boyfriend, Harlequin, must be careful: if he tries to do the corny with some other, she knows how to do it straight.
Her way of doing things lively and mischievous, hides a willful character and a natural cleverness that make Columbine a nicely mischievous character, much loved by the public.

Columbine, of course liar, always uses a lie for a good purpose to cover the loves of her mistress, continually hampered by a gruff and stern father. Teacher to hide a love note under the apron or in the chest, she shows her greatest skill whenever she has to deliver these letters in the hands of the lady without noticing by suspicious parents.
She is an intelligent woman who becomes aware of living in a male society  where, in order to survive, she must use cunning and sensitivity. Perhaps it is for this reason that there is so nice.

By Giorgia Zatta


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