Decorative Keystones

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This page contains information about Decorative Keystones as a group. To learn about the anatomy of a typical keystone, visit the Keystone page.

Decorative Keystones are a type of Functional Art that accentuate doorways, bridges, and other arches with sculptures often depicting a face or a Coat of Arms.

Decorative Keystones
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Decorative keystones, or mascaroni, play both an artistic and structural role in the arches to which they are attached. They contribute to both the art and architecture in Venice[1]. To read more about the architectural role of a keystone in an arch please see the Keystone page.

A decorative keystone, or mascarone


Decorative Keystones are commonly made from Istria stone, which is hard, waterproof, and easily workable. Its unique characteristics are the reason that much of Venice's public art remains in good condition (and in many cases still legible) today. Decorative Keystones are found on bridges, doors, arches, and windows throughout all the sestieri of Venice. They can be decorated with heads, lions, coats of arms, or floral designs. Doors and windows are often decorated with keystone heads, usually somewhat grotesque, to drive away evil spirits as well as potential human intruders. There are very few Coats of Arms found on doors, windows, and other arches, they are most commonly found on bridges throughout Venice[2].

A bridge keystone decorated with three stemmi


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A keystone covered in grime.

Deterioration of Keystones

It is important to be able to distinguish the types of deterioration with each Keystone and how the damages differ between each specific piece. Damage to the keystone in general or the integrity of the keystones can occur in dozens of different ways including decaying, pitting, flaking, chalking, and grime[3].

For more information pertaining to the type of damages that afflict keystones see the Damage to public art page. For information pertaining to the preservation of Venetian decorative keystones, please see the Restoration and Preservation of Public Art page.

See Also


  1. Ayetut. Computerized Catalog of Venetian Decorative Keystones. Pg 3.8–3.9, 6.1
  2. Ayetut. Computerized Catalog of Venetian Decorative Keystones. Pg 3.8–3.9, 6.1
  3. Ayetut. Computerized Catalog of Venetian Decorative Keystones, pp. 3.10-3.11



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