I have to give a talk about one of the Dutch Lacemaker paintings. I know of over a dozen of these paintings, by different artists. Vermeer's is the most famous. They were all painted about 1655-1673, in the Netherlands. The problem is that I can't find any decent references to lace made in the Netherlands or Holland of this period. Some experts even say that they didn't make lace in Holland then, and that so-called 'Dutch lace' was really made in Flanders! Flanders lace is famous of course. The references to Dutch lace on the web seem a little vague, and fairly late in date. But the paintings are definitely Dutch - and early - and the artists come from all over the Netherlands. So there MUST have been lace being made in the Netherlands at that time!

I am particularly interested in what style of lace they would have made. I have the book Flanders Lace by Mary Niven, which is very interesting, but a little vague about dates, and anyway, that's about Flemish not Dutch lace. Also her patterns need a lot of bobbins, and one peculiarity of the Lacemaker paintings is that they don't seem to have many bobbins. Casper Netcher's Lacemaker (which is the one that I'm interested in) has only about 6 pairs visible, which cover half her pillow. Even assuming an equal number on the other side, that's only 12 pairs, which is hardly a complex pattern! You may think that the artist just couldn't be bothered painting lots of bobbins, but the rest of the paintings are so accurate that this seems odd. (And the accuracy also suggests that they were painting from real Dutch lacemakers). The pictures that I've seen of so-called Dutch lace also looks too complicated.

Could they be doing Torchon lace? Some people seem to think that Torchon was done throughout Europe, and very early, and of course you can do a decent pattern without too many bobbins.

What do people think?

Anyone who wants to look at these paintings, see


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I think the closest you will get to an answer is a book by Nora Andries CAROLUSKANTJES, PATRONEN EN TECHNISCHE TEKENINGEN..... publ by N. Andries 1998.  It is a collection of loose pattern sheets, with photographs of laces from the collection of the Saint Charles Boromeus church in Antwerp, and they date from the 16th century onwards. (She says)  I wouldn't call any of them torchon, exactly.  The clothwork is all more complex.  Some are pure braided/plaited laces.  The most complex are very much like the pottenkant of Antwerp.  You really must find a copy of this.  It will give you the best idea of what that lace would have been like.  Hopefully a lace guild will have a copy you can borrow.

I'm afraid that I can't find the book you mention. All the pottenkant that I've seen are far too complex to have been made by the Dutch lacemakers, who, as I said, only seem to be using a few bobbins. Netcher's Lacemaker only has 12 bobbins (6 pairs) in view, and the Lacemaker is resting her hand on the other side of the pillow which suggests there can't be many on the other side. None of the Lacemakers show many bobbins.

Perhaps a braided lace would be a better bet. I've found some patterns from Le Pompe, published in Venice in 1557 (according to the article) which has some braided patterns in. This is earlier of course, but that's better than being too late. Do you know anything about this book? The article describes it as being the earliest pattern book for bobbin lace.

I suggest that you consult an historical atlas. The borders of that part of the world were very different in that era than now. I don't claim to be an authority on the subject, but the major lace making regions of Flanders were actually in the Netherlands at that time. These regions variously called the Spanish Netherlands, or the Southern Netherlands, are now in the country of Belgium which came into existence in the 19th century. There are also parts of Flanders that are now in France, like Valenciennes.

My guess as to what lace they are making is that it would resemble the lace in Nora Andries's books Caroluskantjes and Onder de loep in which she has reproduced patterns of church lace found in the St. Charles Borromeus Church in Antwerp which dates to that era. The Flemish city of Antwerp would have been in an area that was considered the Netherlands at that time.


The above are similar to the laces in Nora Andries's book. Some of them can be quite simple. She does have one with only ten pairs in it.

Jo, check your email INBOX on this site.  I sent you a photo.  There are paintings of English persons wearing lace which is similar in character to the LePompe laces, which suggests that that style of plaited laces was spread beyond the borders of Italy and France.  Some of those laces are narrow, but some are just as wide and require just as many bobbins as pottenkant.  Andries would be much more authentic.

Good photoes, Devon, thanks.

I forgot to mention, there was a 2nd volume of LePompe patterns published a few years after the first.  And the modern publication of the woodcut images dates from the 1880s.  Which means no copyright issues.  And it is available online.


Thanks for the photos - that's a great help!

The history is interesting - all these Dutch Lacemaker paintings were done within what we know call the Netherlands - to the north of the Rhine as it enters the North Sea. Flanders was south of the Rhine, similar to what we now know as Belgium. The known lace (such as Antwerp, Brussels) was Flanders/Belgium. The modern Netherlands was founded as a country in 1648 in the Treaty of Westphalia, and all these Lacemakers were painted in 1655-1673, just after this. The artists came from towns and cities all over this new Netherlands - none were in Flanders. It was this complete divide between the paintings of Lacemakers, and where the known old lace came from which is so fascinating.

I found the pompe2.pdf file. Here's an article about the original book:


It analyses some of the patterns, if anyone is interested. Its title is 'Le Pompe': A Study of the Technique of Sixteenth Century Bobbin Laces, Paulis, L. The Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, Vol. 6 (1922), 11 pages.


Thanks again, everyone!

That is a very interesting observation, Jo.

I looked up Nicolaes Maes in the MMA data base because the picture of the woman and child is one I know well. He apparently was born in Dordrecht, which is south of the Rhine. It is not in Flanders, but very close to Brabant which was also a big lacemaking region. According to my map of the World after the Treaty of Westphalia, it looks as though Brabant may have been partially in the "United Netherlands" and partially in the "Spanish Netherlands". So, if lacemaking areas of Brabant were in the United Netherlands, maybe there was lace being made in the United Netherlands. According to the MMA site Maes moved from Dordrecht to Amsterdam. Perhaps it was the case that aspiring artists gravitated to Amsterdam to join the art scene there and in search of wealthy patrons. Unfortunately the MMA site is quiet about where else he may have been, but the Wikipedia site claims that he lived in Antwerp for a while. Perhaps travel within the various cities of the United Netherlands and the Spanish Netherlands was not that difficult.

Continuing my search on Wikepedia, which I admit is probably not the most scholarly authority, I ran across this, which was interesting.

"Under the terms of surrender of Antwerp in 1585 the Protestant population (if unwilling to reconvert) were given two years to settle their affairs before leaving the city and Habsburg territory.[1] Similar arrangements were made in other places. Protestants were especially well-represented among the skilled craftsmen and rich merchants of the port cities of Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. More moved to the north during the period 1585-1630 than Catholics moved in the other direction, although there were also many of these. Of those moving north, many settled in Amsterdam, which was a small port in 1585, but thanks to the immigrants was quickly transformed into one of the most important ports and commercial centres in the world by 1630. The exodus can be described as 'creating a new Antwerp'. This mass immigration from Flanders and Brabant was an important driving force behind the Dutch Golden Age."

In addition to the mass immigration of natives from the Southern Netherlands, there were also significant influxes of non-native refugees who themselves had previously fled from religious persecution, particularly Sephardi Jews from Portugal and Spain and, later, Huguenots from France. The Pilgrim Fathers also spent time there before going to the New World."

The mention of Huguenots is interesting since the subject of whether Huguenots brought lacemaking to England is one that is very controversial. I guess it is safe to say that clothworkers were on the move during this period of history.

Yes, I've been following all that. I too have been reading Wikipedia! The fall of Antwerp was quite a bit before the period that I'm looking at, but there were certainly refugees from there north. The family of Frans Hals (the Laughing Cavalier) left there when he was 4 years old and went to the northern Netherlands. And there may have been travel between Flanders and the Netherlands afterwards. But I don't believe in painters travelling south to Flanders just to paint lacemakers! All their other subjects (of that particular genre of domestic interiors) were local Dutch people. The other Dutch painters of Lacemakers were

Nicolaes Maes (5)   1655, 1656–57  Dordrecht

Caspar Netscher (1)   1662  Arnhem, Deventer, France, The Hague (1662)

Gerrit Dou  (2)  1667  Leiden

Johannes Vermeer (1)   1669-1671 Delft near The Hague

Pieter Cornelisz van Slingelandt (2) 1670, 1672-3  Leiden

Pieter Jacobsz. Codde. (2)  (1599-1678) Amsterdam

Gabriel Metsu (2)   (1629-1667)   Leiden, Amsterdam

Jan Miense Molenaer (1)   (1610–1669) Haarlem 

The numbers in brackets is how many Lacemaker paintings of theirs that I've found. Those locations are all over the Netherlands (modern), and Vemeer, for example, is famous in never having left Delft. Of course the lacemakers may have moved north as refugees because of the Spanish/Netherlands war which ended in 1648 - it seems likely that they did. But it's still a little odd that Flemish lacemakers were famous after this date, while Dutch lacemakers weren't.

About the history of lacemaking in England, Pat Earnshaw's Dictionary of Lace mentions that there is a record of children being taught 'bone lace' in Bedforshire before 1600, which is amazingly early. I assume that she is reliable. And there's Shakespeare's famous quote about "the free maids that weave their thread with bones" in 1602. The Huguenots were French, and one account is fairly rude about French bobbin lacemakers at this time - that was one reason why they wanted to conquer Flanders! But Flanders seems worried about their lacemakers leaving Flanders for other palces, and England might be a reasonable destination (along with the Netherlands) for religious reasons.  Nasty religious wars going on at this period!

Srry to go on about this - I find it interesting! There doesn't seem a lot known about this very early period.

There was a study group from OIDFA that found and researched laces in the domestic millieu.  Their studies were published as Die Linnencast.  I think there were 5 publications.  I have a few and those laces look very much like the laces Devon shows.  They don't take very many bobbins, much like the simpler lace in Nora Andries collections. What you may be looking for are the domestic laces that girls would work for their trousseaus rather than a commercial industry.

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