Hello experts--

I trawl museum archives for fun, but I'm just an amateur honing my identification skills. I can do ok with some of the early laces at this point. This one, though, I'm surprised about. 

Everything I've read so far suggested there was not bobbin lace in the 11th century. But I don't know what this piece did to earn that classification. 

Any thoughts? Or am I just not familiar with this region--most of the things I've seen have been more Western European. 


Object Details
Title: Lace Edging
Date: 11th century
Artist: Artist/maker unknown, Byzantine
Medium: Linen bobbin lace
Dimensions: 14 1/2 x 3/4 inches (36.8 x 1.9 cm)
Classification: Textiles
Credit Line: Gift of the Associate Committee of Women, 1894
Accession Number: 1894-30-110
Geography: Made in Constantinople, Turkey, Asia

Views: 82

Replies to This Discussion

Goodness!! I did not know bobbin lace went that far back either, Mary.

I look forward to reading the thoughts of the experts on this list!!

The earliest unequivocal evidence for bobbin lace is the 1559 LePompe book. There are supposedly references to "bone lace" in 15th c inventories, but I have no direct knowledge of those.

From what I know of lace history, the only form of lace that existed as early as the 11th c was filet lacis. It was worked on a square mesh with knots at the corners. The design would be woven threads filling in some of the spaces. The image you present for us doesn't show the individual threads, so we only have to go on the overall impression. Your example is a square mesh, and the solid areas could be woven threads filling some spaces.  Below is a link to one of my pinterest boards, with lots of lacis photos.


And here are some examples from needlelacetalk


In 1893 Cora Slocomb di Brazza, an American who married into the Italian aristocracy and started a lace industry to give work to Italian women in the Fruili region of Italy (https://www.coradibrazza.com/) organized an exhibit Old and New Lace in Italy to be displayed in the Woman's Building at the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. She wrote a book in which she described these exhibited pieces. It is called A Guide Old and New Lace in Italy. I am sure this is available somewhere on the internet, but I am looking at my own copy. Somehow the pieces from this exhibit ended up in Philadelphia, apparently given by the Associate Committee of Women. 

I think this piece is described in the book p, 79, which she refers to as No. 71. See the attached catalogue entry. I don't know why she thinks that the piece had to be made with bobbins. It just seems woven to me. The cataloguing by the Philadelphia Museum sounds as though a heroic effort was made to render this paragraph into the categories required by the cataloguing process. 

And that is precisely the kind of institutional knowledge I thought someone would have on this. Thank you, Devon!

I would be cautious in accepting the words of the catalog at face value. Because someone says something is bobbin lace doesn't necessarily make it so. It is possible to make a square mesh by bobbins, but without more detail in the photos we can't be sure. We have to see the intersections of the ground threads. Are there knots??? or no knots???  The latter could be bobbin made, but not the former.

I am always amazed at Devon's detailed knowledge of museums, lace, catalogs, exhibitions.


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