Monday, February 13, 2012

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Lace Border, c. 1660

Happy Monday the 13th, All!  I’m a wee bit slow in starting today.  You see, I didn’t sleep last night.  Why?  I was constantly up and down looking out the window because we were due snow and ice.  In my part of the world, this is not a terribly frequent occurrence, and so, I wanted to keep an eye out.

Now, around five o’clock this morning, a thought occurred to me.  “Joseph, you don’t leave the house.  You live and work in the same place.  You could be snowed-in for days and it would not make a difference.”  And, so, realizing how ridiculous I am, I went to bed, planning on getting up in an hour and beginning my day with tremendous flare and energy.

No.  I woke up at ten.  I blame Bertie who, I think, shut off the alarm clock.  Besides, we were still giddy and groggy from our wonderful, annual Valentine’s feast on Sunday, but you’ll see more of that in the “Treat of the Week” post later.  I’ve just sorted through all the photos and it’s making my stomach growl. 

Various other things have slowed me today.  For example, I just received a package from a friend in England—thank you Barry!—containing two beautiful items which far exceeded my expectations of them.  You’ll be seeing those in coming days as “Objects of the Day.”

But, first, let’s get going with today’s, “Object of the Day.”

Lace Border made in Venice, c. 1660-90
Imported to Britain for the Royal Court
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In keeping with the Valentine’s Day theme of the last few days, I thought today we’d look at a common element in many valentines—lace.  Here, we see a lovely piece of lace from one of the world’s primary lace-making centers—Venice.  The needle lace made in Venice in the second half of the Seventeenth Century was celebrated throughout the world for its quality and variety.   This example is a border of the type known now as “point de neige,” due to its resemblance to the tiny details of snowflakes.

When this lace border was made, between the 1660s and 1690s, both men and women increasingly wore extravagant lace as a mark of wealth and status. The most theatrical lace pieces were worn at the throat and at the wrist, setting off the face and hands. A fashionable gentleman might even trim his boot hose with matching lace borders and borders such as the one pictured here were suitable for the elaborate headdresses of women.

Around the time this piece was created, in an attempt to protect the English lace industry, a royal proclamation was issued in 1662 forbidding the import or sale of foreign lace. There was one little loophole in the proclamation, the Royal Family was exempt from this prohibition.   So, it is believed that this piece was brought into Britain for the Royal Family who either used it for their own purposes or gave it to an eager member of the court. 

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