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This is the first installment of a series of articles entitled ‘History of Lace,’ that will be posted in succession.

As I have always been fascinated by hand made lace, I have tried to collect information about the history of this inspiring craft, and how it spread in Europe.

The first steps of lace-making were taken in the lands Pharaohs of Egypt, where hair nets and fine flax clothes, decorated with colored threads, precious stones and gold,  were found in many tombs of the royalty in the Thebes, some dating to about 2500 BC.

An ancient specimen from a Roman cemetery in Middle Egypt

The romans later on caught the trend, and adorned the edges of their robes with golden lace threads. Gradually, the craft of lace-making was developed into numerous types, by several cultures, each customizing its own design trends and methods.

17th century Venetian Rose Point

A fine example of antique gold lace was discovered in St Cuthbert’s coffin, who died in 685 A.D. But not until the fifteenth century did this beautiful fabric, now called ‘point lace,’ became widely spread in Europe. It was first mastered by the nuns in Venice in order to add to the income of their convents. Another early traces in Europe go back to Flanders, Belgium.

France, as always, lead the train of fashion in the sixteenth century. Under the name of ‘Lacis,’ it became known during the reign of Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), who summoned the most famous lace maker and designer in Venice, Federico di Vinciolo, to live, teach and work in France. But it was during the age of the Grande Monarque, Louis XIV that the French lace matched the perfection of that made in Venice.

Original Patterns designed by Vinciolo

French imitation of the old Point Coupe of Italy

English: Lace curtain Français : Rideau de den...

Lace Curtain. Image via Wikipedia

With the mass persecution of the Protestants, they fled to England, bringing with them their arts of lace-making and silk weaving. This led to the introduction of English lace, mainly during the reign of Queen Mary. But not until Queen Elizabeth’s times that lace became so trendy, and was developed in various shapes and forms. At that time, lace was filthy expensive, to the extent that it was rumored that nobility gentlemen sold their estates in order to buy lace gifts to impress their adornments!

Early English samples showing cut & drawn work

Royal Lace detail

Royal Lace Detail. Image via Wikipedia

Seventeenth Century trimmed collar, with fine Reticella lace. (S.K.M. Collection)

English: An example of old valuable framed lac...

An example of old valuable framed lace for commercial use in Brugge, Nederland. Image via Wikipedia

In short, the art of lace-making tells a great deal about both the crafter, and the consumer. The former definitely owns a lot of patience (for a simple mistake means unwinding hours, if not days, of hard work), attention to details, and perfectionism. While the latter is definitely a person who strives to constantly be unique, by being immersed in the pleasures and the beauty of this world, which is a privilege that was only given to those of a certain prestige, the non-working class, during the older times.

Coming up next, ‘History of Lace: A Collection of Portraits,’

& ‘History of Lace: Documenting Modern Times.