French Chateau Laces                © J. Ames 2013

Imagine owning 18 chateaux! This is the happy circumstance of a lace collector in Maine.

Rarely do we have an opportunity to view laces of such exquisite beauty as this set of 12 French chateau place mats and a table runner depicting an additional 6 chateaux. It is needle lace that stops us in our tracks; lace so very special that a viewer may forget to breathe!

The present owner's great grandmother purchased this set in a New York City lace shop in 1910 for $2,000. Since then, the family has protected them. All the place mats are enclosed in frames, and the table runner has been sparingly used.

Each chateau is identified within the lace. The plant life surrounding the delicately worked chateaux is appropriate to each. All are different and fun to study.

These were made before the widespread destruction of two World Wars in the 20th C. Present images of the chateaux may be different. After Vi Eastman photographed these laces, it was possible to enlarge them on a computer (only possible in recent years) and see the minutest details. Then, a search chateau-by-chateau was done. A marvelous grand tour of French Chateaux!

If you have any additional information that can be shared, please include in your comments. Specifically value, whether there are other sets of these chateau laces in lace collections, and where/when they were made and by whom.

J. Ames



Chateau de Coucy was destroyed by the Germans in March 1917. It had been built in the 1220's and renovated in the 19th century. On the internet it tells of the dynamiting using 28 tons of explosives. The destruction caused so much public outrage that in April 1917 the ruins were declared “a memorial to barbarity”. War reparations were used to clear the the four smaller towers and to consolidate the walls but the ruins of the keep (largest tower) were left in place. Current photos show the ruins.


Chambord is a royal chateau in the French Renaissance architectural style, built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francois I, who maintained his royal residences at Chateau de Blois and Chateau de Amboise (also featured in this set of lace chateau images). It is the largest chateau in the Loire Valley, and is surrounded by a 13,000 acre wooded park and game reserve. Construction of Chambord begain in 1519. Open to the public.


Chantilly is the site of two attached buildings – the Petit Chateau built around 1560, and the Grand Chateau, which was destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the 1870s. Chantilly is owned by the Institut de France and houses one of the finest art galleries in France. The library of the Petit Chateau contains over 1,300 manuscripts (some 200 of which are medieval) and 12,500 printed volumes, including a Gutenberg Bible. This site is open to the public.


Fontainebleau's construction began in the 16th C. during the rule of Francis I. An older chateau on this site was in use in the latter part of the 12th C. This is one of the largest French royal chateaux, and many of France's kings have lived here. Part of the chateau is now home to the Ecoles d'Art Americaines, a school of art, architecture, and music for students from the United States. The school was founded by General Pershing when his men were stationed here during World War I.


Chateau de Sully is approached by an axial stone bridge across its moat. It was built to control one of the few sites where the Loire can be forded, and has perhaps been fortified since Gallo-Roman times, certainly since the early 11th C. The first cylindrical keep's foundation, built in 1218, has been located. As with many chateaux, it was built and restored over the course of several centuries. The chateau of Henry IV's minister, Maximilien de Bethune (1560-1641) and the ducs de Sully, it remains the home of the present duchesse de Magenta and her family. Listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.



Chateau de Chaumont is a castle founded in the 10th century. Louis XI ordered the castle's destruction in 1465. Rebuilding started almost immediately. The castle was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550, and it was here that she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. This site has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. It was donated to the government in 1938, and is currently a museum open to the public.



Outrelaise (in Normandy) was built during the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It appears to currently be a privately-owned conference center and bed & breakfast.



Maintenon is best known as the private residence of the second spouse of Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenon. Construction began in the 12th century and ended roughly in the 18th century. It is classified as a Monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture. In 2005, the property was given to the Conseil general d'Eure-et-Loir.



Chateau de Luynes – an early castle on this site in the Loire Valley was destroyed in the late 10th or early 11th C. Rebuilding began in the 12th C. This chateau has experienced destruction and rebuilding for centuries. The dukes of Luynes still own the chateau.



Chateau de Bethune was an important 11th C. fortress on the Sauldre River.  Some time after the lace was made (late 19th C.), the name appears to have been changed to Chateau de la Chapelle d'Angillon.  This, and other lace images in this chateau collection are related to the family names of Bethune and Sully, presenting interesting comparisons for historians.  The site is now used for special public and social events, and there is a museum of art objects.


Petit Trianon is a small chateau located on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, constructed by order of Louis XV for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. She died before it was completed, and it was occupied by her successor, Madame du Barry. When Louis XVI became king, he gave the chateau and its surrounding park to his 19-year-old Queen Marie Antoinette for her exclusive use and enjoyment.



Chateau de Blois was the residence of several French kings. It is the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orleans. The multiple buildings were constructed from the 13th to the 17th centuries. It has 564 rooms and 75 staircases. The 16th century library at this site was eventually moved to the royal Chateau de Fontainebleau where it became the royal library that forms the core of the present Bibliotheque Nationale de France.




                                                                 Rambouillet                        Bonnetable


                                Moulin                           Pierrefonds                    Amboise                 Fenelon


East End of Runner – 25” wide (Chateau de Fenelon)


Chateau de Fenelon (east end of table runner) is located in Dordogne, Aquitane, France. It dates from the 13th C., but what is seen today is mostly from 16th C. refurbishments. A combination of Middle Ages fortifications and Renaissance beauty. Furnishings are from the 15th to 18th centuries. Open to the public.



Chateau de Bonnetable was restored in the 1470's by the Norman family d'Hartcourt, after the original 11th C. chateau had been demolished during the 100 years war between Great Britain and France. The chateau has a long history with links to many European royal families. During the 1880's it was extensively renovated in Neo-gothic style, and renovations continue to the present. It is privately owned and not open to the public.



Chateau d' Amboise has a very ancient history, dating back to the 9th C. It is where Mary, Queen of Scots, was raised by Henry II and his wife, Catherine de' Medici. Records show that Leonardo da Vinci was buried in the church of Saint Florentin, part of the Chateau d' Amboise. During the French Revolution the greater part of the chateau was demolished. Rebuilt, since 1840, it has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture. Presently, the comte de Paris repairs and maintains the chateau through the Foundation Saint-Louis.



Chateau de Moulin (west end of table runner) was built in 1492 in the Franco-Italian art style. It is surrounded by moats, as can be seen in the lace. It is privately inhabited.


Chateau de Rambouillet was a fortified manor dating back to 1368. In 1783, it became the private property of Louis XVI, who bought it from his cousin as an extension of his hunting grounds. During the French Revolution the chateau was emptied of its furnishings and the gardens and surrounding park fell into neglect. Since the late 19th C., the chateau has become the summer residence of France's Presidents of the Republic.



Chateau de Pierrefonds bears the characteristics of defensive military architecture from the Middle Ages, though it underwent several restorations through the centuries. Classified as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1848. This chateau has often been the “location” for modern films and TV series.

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The outer borders are probably from the Burano School around 1880.  The center images of the chateaux are harder to identify.  They could be Burano and the fact that the chateaux motifs have  different colors of thread in them and the additional flower and trees are more like the outer border, really only leaves the actual Chateaux themselves in question.

The work from Burano is precise and well-worked but the Burano work was noted for its dense tightness of the needle lace stitches.  If you examine the borders, you will see that the needle lace stitches appear as corded rows.  Compared to the free styles of previous generations of needle lace, the ideas are more fixed and precisely executed.  

These place mats are an astounding set of needle lace but I have never heard of anything quite like them.

That's incredible! 

I suppose a Burano origin is possible, although present day Burano has sort of a nubby appearance I don't see here. The three different threads that I see on the Fontainebleu really blows me away.

I am particularly intrigued by the use of voided spaces in the corded buttonhole work to suggest stonework. Also, the odd square patches in the water have me wondering if somewhere there are etchings that all these are adapted from.

I think that there were many pieces that were made for American tourists of the Edith Wharton era who were entranced with European history and architecture. I am keeping a mental file of these that includes the travels of Columbus runner and placemat set at the Met, the Bayeaux tapestry runner at the Smithsonian, a table cloth that depicts a ceiling of the  Doges Palace in Venice, a tablecloth that depicts scenes of Venice that I have only heard of, a runner on Maria Niforos's site that has some kind of adventure involving castles, horses, etc, and a tablecloth that I have read about that used to be in the Jesurum shop window in Venice off Saint Marks that had Neptune and other sea-god type themes. Frequently such masterpieces are described as having taken 10 nuns, 10 years to make. I attribute that phrase to a sales pitch, unless there were many cadres of ten nuns who worked in units of ten years.

The Venetian connection among several of these pieces suggests a Burano/Jesurum origin. However, the piece in the Metropolitan museum, although of a theme uniquely related to America and Italy, Columbus, actually has French writing on it, so is presumed to be Belgian. So, were there many sources? Quite likely.

I would love to hear about more of these in that I think there is a lot to be learned about late 19th and early 20th century lace production from these pieces, also, what role the American market may have played in it.

This is really staggering. What kind of lace industry produced things like this and how many people were involved? I think I heard a figure once that there were 3000 people in the area around Burano producing for Jesurum. It makes sense that only something that extensive could produce something like this. But, I think that Jesurum was not alone and that there may have been other industries just as extensive.

It is hard to know where to start with this set. Just the varied treatment of the shingles is masterful. The interior parts of the placemats could have been produced separately and then put in the exterior parts. Maybe there were different versions being made, for instance this was a super duper one with appropriate foliage around each chateau, but might there have been a more down market one with more pedestrian setting? I would love to know where this was purchased in New York, and was it new?  It seems like the interiors are made of a different thread, or possibly two different threads because of the need for a finer thread for more definition. But, then, there will be an archway that is a thick thread in the middle of it, so perhaps the differences in the threads is entirely an artistic choice, not one that illuminates production.

I am thinking it may well have been new in 1910. There was an exhibit in Brussels a few years ago, Lace, the Industry of Refinement, which featured 19th and 20th century lace. What was surprising was how exquisite the 20th century lace was, even after World War I.

This is certainly inspiring. The chateaux seem so lacy to begin with that it would have been fun to interpret them in lace stitches. I wonder if we could do a series of Modernist Architectural buildings as creatively. If we did, I don't think we would go to the contrivance of making it a series of placemats and runners. Seriously, this is the kind of work that should be hung in a gallery not put under a plate.

How much of this is out there?


This article with its collection of photographs is a valuable gift to lace lovers all over the world.  THANK YOU.

Everybody: be sure to click wherever you see a hand, to get a more detailed image.  Then, where you see a magnifying glass with a + in it, click again for even more detail.

I think I love the foliage that surrounds the chateaux even more than the part with the buildings.  Each tree or shrub in itself would be a significant work for one of us, certainly beyond my ambition.  And the outer border with its insertion is interesting in itself, and could be abstracted as a hankie edging.

Let us try and identify some of the stitches used.  Pick your favorite piece, select a motif, and try to figure out what stitches they used.

This set is breathtaking. Very many thanks, Jeri, for bringing it to our attention.

Awesome is a fitting word!

I must bookmark the site, so I can go back and study it more closely.

I too, love the trees etc that surround the chateaux.  gosh! what a project! - my mind is racing....!

Absolutely fabulous! I have just enjoyed the Chateaux lace without dissecting, but will come back later to really study these. Thank you for your hard work Jeri. 

Possible design source? There is an artist named Victor Petit who did several books of etchings showing Chateaux of France. This is on the internet, so is presumably copyright free, Chateaus of France XV and XVI centuries

I looked for the Chateau d'Outrelaise because I thought it was probably among the more obscure. I wouldn't be surprised if some if not all of the chateaus are based on his etchings.

The Columbus runners  placemat and napkin set can be found at the link. They are numbers 1980.520.1-16. Unfortunately you really have to enter each number separately into the search box under Collections, but the link will take you to one of the runners and there is also a place mat in "related art", Perhaps people  would like to see them to compare them to the Chateau lace runner and mats, as well as the Bayeux one, and the one that Patricia Cook posted.



Thank you for sharing this stunning lace pictorial with the lace world. I found myself looking at the relationship between the chateaus  and the foliage. The chateaus drew me in but it was the foliage/border that I found myself leisurely "walking" in. I actually felt like I was exploring the grounds of the chateau. What a wonderful experience!


Today we at the First Young Lace Makers Symposium visited the lace museum in Rapallo, Itay. It deals with the Zennaro industry which operated 1908-1968. There were some designs for, and even lace examples of place mats, known as American Sets. I asked about the date when these sets became popular and the answer was 1930s, which surprised me. Indeed, if the French chateau set was bought in 1910 these sets must predate the 1930s, although perhaps they reached their peak of popularity in the 1930s. I think we can rule out Rapallo and the Zennaro lace industry as a source for the chateau set since Rapallo was primarily a bobbin lace area. The search goes on!

Drop dead gorgeous!  I could marvel at these all day!  Trying to pick a favorite?  Hard pressed!  I can't imagine why on Earth they were made into placemats LOL.  I wouldn't dare dine on them! Ha!  Thank you for sharing such a gift! I'll be visiting again & again!

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