Lace of the Month: Spanish Blonde – April 2011

Since I recently did a piece on the Educational Silk Museum of Como which makes silk bobbinlaces a specialty, I thought it would be appropriate to select a piece of blonde lace for the April feature.  This impressive flounce is 7.5″ wide, and in excellent condition. The design is quite delicate, including half stitch shading and some interesting fillings. It does not appear to have been made in strips joined with point de raccroc.

One can get a good history of blonde laces in books like “Victorian Lace” by Patricia Wardle. Light silk laces were popular at the end of the 18th century, made in and around Chantilly, in Caen and Bayeux. Chantilly suffered much in the French Revolution, and revived largely because of the patronage of Napoleon. He decreed that only the products of Alençon and Chantilly could be worn at court, providing a great incentive for blonde lace manufacture. Blonde lace was so popular that it survived the fall of the Empire, and was a stable product of Chantilly and Caen for several decades. In Bayeaux the industry was re-introduced in 1827, and was quickly dominated by the August Lefébure firm. Through a careful study of popular fashion, he developed products for the Spanish and Spanish-American market. It is now difficult to disentangle products of France made for Spanish export, and products of Spain itself.  Some examples of Spanish ret-fi do have a distinctive architectural character, which will be discussed in later featured lace posts.

Blonde unfortunately was quite easy to duplicate with machine and embroidery techniques, and manufacture ceased to be productive by the mid 19th century.

Where did this particular example come from? It differs greatly from the familiar Blonde de Caen, which emphasizes large flat areas of floral design providing maximum contrast with a fine point ground. Note also the use of sprigs and tallies in the ground itself, and the unusual fillings used along the lower edge. Plates 241 and 242 in Florence May’s Hispanic Lace and Lace Making show  similar contrasting stitches labeled 18th century, but without the naturalistic effects seen in this piece.
I’m really leaning toward a Spanish origin on this piece.

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