Lace of the Month – Punto Antico Aquilano – February 2012

This remarkable point ground lace is an alb flounce, and comes with two matching cuffs. They might also be used to decorated a dress. We recently mounted the set on a linen alb to get an overall impression, although the alb itself is probably a bit too long.  It is a point ground continuous lace, about 10″ wide. The thread is linen, a bit coarse and stiff, but the work is excellent. Note the lack of a gimp, the well-done fillings, and raised veins from sewings within the motifs.  Point ground laces in the Aquila region generally fall under the name ‘Punto Antico Aquilano’ as discussed literature such as Rita Fattore and Vita Maria Aprile’s “Il Tombolo Aquilano”, 2008. This is not a readily identifiable lace, and I think there are many mistaken attributions. It is a worthy topic of research. But the Italian provenance of this particular set is undisputed.


The set was purchased from the collection of Princess Maria Gabriella De Savoia (b. 1940), daughter of King Umberto II of Italy (1904-1983). The flounce is illustrated in an obscure article, “Trine e Merletti d’Abruzzo” by Giuseppe Imbastaro in a publication called ‘Touring Club Italiano” dated 1914.  The article shows the flounce still on the pillow, labeled “Pizzo Aquilano”. It says that the work was done as a gift for the Queen Mother of Italy, who at that time would have been Margherita of Savoy (1851-1926), the great-grandmother of Princess Maria Gabriella. The photo is also shown in the Fattore/Aprile book.

Queen Margherita was a famous patron of lacemakers and lacemaking schools. Part of her legendary lace collection was lent for exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, mediated by the American expatriate and Italian lace promoter Countess Cora Slocumb di Brazza Savorgnan.  The 1981 book “The Fair Women: The Story of the Woman’s Building, World’s Colombian Exposition, Chicago 1893” by Jeanne Madeline Weimann contains an account of that loan, how it was shipped under armed guard, each piece in elaborately sealed packages.* Some panic ensued when it was discovered that there were fewer pieces than expected – it seems that the Queen had removed some of her favorites before shipping, and the manifest was never changed.  Another panic was caused by a few mice spotted near the display case.  We don’t have an exact date on the Aquilano piece, so it is difficult to say if it was shown in Chicago.

*They were shipped on a German steamer; since they were irreplaceable, a $100,000 bond had been secured against their safe return. From a safety deposit vault they were brought to the Woman’s Building in a splendid coach drawn by gold-harnessed horses. The coachmen wore full royal livery. Nineteen guards brought the cases into the Building, where it took a week to unpack them. The wooden boxes were covered with zinc, wrapped in canvas, and sealed with 250 royal seals.
“The Fair Women”

Interesting contrast to how I threw most of my collection in the back of several cars and trucks when we were evacuated during the Las Conchas forest fire which was running wild in New Mexico near where I live. I wasn’t even sure where some of the drivers were going. But I did get it all back, in excellent condition. – lsw

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