Museums: Museu Marès de la Punta, Arenys De Mar, Spain

I am starting a new category on museums with significant lace collections. No better place to start than with the museum I toured with Carolina de la Guardia in Spain on November 29, 2010.

Museu Marès de la Punta
Carrer de l’Església, 43 Arenys de Mar, Spain
Hours: 11:00 to 13:00 and 16:00 to 18:00 Tuesday-Saturday
11:00 to 13:00 and 18:00 to 20:00 Tuesday-Saturday (April 1 to Sept 30)
11:00 to 13:00 Sundays and holidays (all year)
Closed on Monday
Admission Fee: 3.00 Euros, 1.50 Euros for students and group discounts
Tel:  937 924 444
Web Site:
Director: Neus Ribas

Arenys de Mar can be reached by a simple ~30 minute train ride from Barcelona along the coast. Be prepared, this is in the heart of Catalonia, and the predominate language is Catalan. The lace museum is located in a 17th century building which originally  housed the Saint Jaume’s Hospital. It was renovated in 1983 to hold the lace collection of sculptor Frederic Marès i Deulovoll (1893-1991). Marès collected in many areas, and there is a major museum of his sculpture in Barcelona. Over the years the lace museum has been the recipient of other collections, most notably the purchase of the archives of the Fábrica de Blondas y Encajes Castells run by Marià Castells i Simón (1873-1931) and his brother Joaquim. The company produced outstanding Art Nouveau designs.  The museum also contains the splendid work of designer Aurora Gutiérrez Larraya (d. 1920).

The holdings of the museum are well documented with photos on their web site – look under ‘Col·leccions’ on the right hand side of the page. There are a wide variety of laces shown, but the holdings of Spanish pieces are phenomenal.  This is definitely the place to go to study the mantilla, and there is a whole section on religious pieces.

The bottom floor of the museum contains rotating exhibitions. To see the permanent collection, start on the top (4th) floor and work your way down. The top floor contains 16th and 17th century examples of lacis, buratto, drawnwork, and some early bobbinlace. The pieces are for the most part, quite large and complete, ranging from coarse to very fine work.

The next floor down contains a wide variety of 19th and 20th century pieces. It also has display cases of gold and silver laces, along with the very large bobbins (up to 8″ long)  meant to hold the metallic thread.

Before you get to the main exhibition hall on the 2nd floor, there is an anteroom containing the Castells archive. It includes designs, sample books, patterns, and account books. This company produced some very fine Art Nouveau designs in a beautiful Guipure.

The main exhibition hall is quite large and has a variety of laces on display. Most notable are the ‘ret-fi’, also known as ‘Punta d’Arenys’, or Spanish Blondes. Originating in the later 18th century in the Arenys region, it was made both in linen, white or black silk, and later in cotton.  It has been described as ‘chiaroscuro’, emphasizing contrasting light and dark areas. It can range from elaborate floral motifs, to rather thin, wandering designs with a geometric, architectural character. There are outstanding pieces on display, including a very fine alb flounce.
This lace is very little recognized in current literature. The museum does sell an excellent book on ret-fi history and technique:
“El <<Ret-Fi>> Català o Puntes d’Arenys”, by Lola Simmaro and Nuria Marot

Ret-fi example in black silk from my own collection.

There is a wide variety of laces from all over Europe on display in the main hall, but I was particularly drawn to the early Spanish Sol drawnworks. These are the predecessors of Tenerife and Ñanduti laces, and I was surprised to see how large and bold the originals are. There was also one handkerchief of the ‘Witch Stitch’ lace, traditionally known as ‘Punta Numerica’. This lace has undergone a recent revival thanks to people like Carolina (see her web site at The museum sells a book on this technique:
“Punta Numerica Extremenya a la Garriga”, by M. Jose Jover, et. al.

Today lacemaking in Catalonia is extensive, represented in many towns. A major lace event is held in Arenys de Mar, photos can be seen on Carolina’s site. My thanks to her for a wonderful day.

Some videos in Catalan describing the museum and various exhibitions can be found at:

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