Sunday, February 16, 2014

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Mary, Viscountess Harcourt Stole, 1900

Lace Stole, 1891-1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This stole was made in Burano, Italy, and belonged to Mary, Viscountess Harcourt. The Burano Lace School, on the island of Burano outside Venice was famed for its delicate work. The school was founded as a charitable institution and enjoyed royal patronage after the severe winter of 1872 when the Venetian lagoon froze and the communities dependent on fishing were badly affected.

The school revived the art of needle worked lace which was a main export of Venice in the 16th and 17th centuries.  There, the lace makers created works of every imaginable size, shape and use as well as faithfully copied high-quality historical pieces. By the 1890s the school was celebrated for its contemporary styles, like this stole.

Mary, Viscountess Harcourt may have bought, or been given, this stole new, perhaps while on a European tour of Venice following her wedding. It is known that the Viscountess’ favorite flower was the iris, which, here alternates with lily of the valley.

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