Laces in Italy

Origins of lace in Italy: Milanese Lace

The most ancient mention, known at the present day, of bobbin lace in Italy, occurs in a deed, drawn up at Milan on the 12th September 1493, in the assignment of property to two sisters, Angela and Ippolita Sforza, Visconti. There, one can read:  ” Una binda lavorata a poncto de doit fuxi par uno lenzolo”; a band of work done with twelve bobbins to trim a sheet.

As rapidly as the industry of pillow lace-making passed into various countries, so, as we have seen in the case of Switzerland, each locality specialized it in some manner, that various characteristic laces were accordingly produced, and came to be identified with their native places.

In Italy, Milan and Genoa were two principal towns in which pillow lace was extensively made, whilst Venice remained the chief center for needlepoints.

Very frequently the less complicated patterns for needle-made laces were adapted and reproduced by the pillow lace makers.

The Milanese point like the Venetian guipure originated in passement and developed rapidly into a superb lace at the end of the sixteenth century.

Milanese Laces

Milan, after first making passements, adopted patterns of flowing scrolls and blossoming flowers, after the style of the Venetian points a “foliami”.

In these, we have another sort of guipure, the leading feature of which is the bold flowing scroll devices. These undoubtedly lacked the rich reliefs which abounded in the Venetian needlepoint laces of similar.

Ornamental motifs: the flowers in this Milanese lace were flat and wrought with the appearance of compactly woven linen ; here and there, somewhat sparsely, would be introduced open fillings (ajours), or else small holes would be left to lighten the tape-like effect of the close work. At the same time, were used plaited bars or ties as a ground in the earlier patterns.

Establishing differences …

It is usual that all the pieces of antique guipures which have a very floral design are ascribed to Milan and all those composed of arabesques to Genoa.

Punto de Genoa 16th. cent.

“Punto di Genoa”

Sometimes called also Guipure di Milano, so greatly resembles the Milanese and Neapolitan that it is easily confused with them. The difference which renders it recognizable, consists in the scroll work of the design, which, in the Genoese, as in the Spanish flat guipure, is composed of a broader, more varied ribbon than in the Milanese and Neapolitan laces.

A very fine quality of this lace is called Fugio (meaning “I fly”), a name given as much on account of its soft airiness as on account of the running scrolls of which it is entirely composed.

In all these laces a crochet needle is used to join the bars together to the design.

In order to do this one thread is drawn with it through a pin-hole in the lace, thus forming a loop, and then the knot is closed by passing the free bobbin of the pair through this loop and simply closing the loop so as to insure added solidity in knotting the bobbins.

“Punto di Milano”

The Milanese point, and Punto di Napoli, -Neapolitan Point-, are different names for lace with round mesh ground, so named after the Italian cities of Milan and Naples which were the two great centers of its production. This lace has always been a favorite, as it washes well and is excessively strong, and its manufacture has spread to all the countries of Europe. It resembles Genoese pillow lace, having the same scrolls and flowers formed by a ribbon in close stitch, with a mesh or tulle ground, whereas the Genoese lace is held together by bars.

“Neapolitan Point”

“The Neapolitan Point”, has a much rounder mesh than the Milanese, but the character of the design is what most distinctly indicates in what part of Italy the lace was made. This same rule also applies to all of Europe, for although in the coarser qualities the technicalities constituting a lace named after a special town were adopted as a standard for the same kind of lace produced in other places, in the finer varieties transplanting, even to the nearest village radically altered the quality of the lace.

The lace made in the Abruzzi resembles the Milanese point lace which is made with a mesh ground, whereas, the Milanese guipure and the Genoese guipure are indistinguishable.

Bibliography: “Dentelles et Guipures”. Ernest Lefebure 1888

“A guide to old and new laces in Italy”

CORA.A. SLOCOMBE DI BRAZZÁ Edition dedicated to Queen Margueritta di Savoia

Some slides for a better comprehension of the evolution of Milanese lace