ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  book reviews, articles


Wrought with cutwork, A Set of 17th-Century Textiles, by P. Wardle, in: Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, 2003, Nr 4, english translation p.399-408

ISBN 90 400 8713 X

ISSN 0165-9510


pillow cover, french or italian, 1630-1640,
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum,
inv.nrs BK-1974-92-A,B,C

detail of linen table-cloth, french or italian, 1630-1640,
coll. J. Spriggs, Allhallows Museum Honiton, Devon, sp24, photo Jonathan Page, Honiton

  In 1974 the Rijksmuserum acquired a bed cover and two matching pillow covers in a mixture of techniques characteristic of the late 16th and first half of the 17th century. All three pieces are composed of large squares of fine linen with three different circular motifs in the same technique in the corners and between the large and small motifs wreaths or sprays of flowers in applied work in the same linen. The squares are joined together at the sides by three cutwork roundels or rosettes with small squares of linen with cutwork and applied work in the corners. The cover is edged on three sides, the pillow covers allround with plaited bobbin lace.   It was a great surprise to discover another item of exactly the same type in a lace exhibition held in the Allhallows Museum at Honiton in Devon in England. this piece is a cloth or cover for a table or cupboard. Dr. A.J. Spriggs, of whose collection it formaed part, acquired it in 1969 from a source in Paris. The Rijksmuseum's part also came from Paris, via a dealer there who made regular visits to the museum in the sixties and early seventies, so there is no reason to doubt that all four items originally constituted a set.
  In the article, the author shows in several chapters the development of cutwork and embroidered motives from 17th to 19th c.:

- Renaissance needlework
- Pattern books and rosettes

- Needle lace combined with embroidery:
In this specific application technique no other work appears to have survived. The technique was to appear again in an even finer form in the eighteenth century in the delicate white embroidery known as Dresden work, but there seemd to be nothing between that and this 17th-century set.

- The flowers and fruit and their siginificance:
It seems likely that the set was made for a marriage, it might even contain a clue to the bride's name: The daisy was at various times an attribute of Venus or a symbol of the Virgin Mary and the Incarnation, but it might also indicate that the bride was called Margherita.
The author points to several possibilities and also to an embroidered picture of St Francis in Ecstacy in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which bears in the top border the arms of Ranuccio Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza (1569-1622), and Margherita Aldobrandini (1586-1646), who were married


  in 1599. To the left of the arms appears a daisy plant, an obvious allusion to the duchess's name.

- The purpose of the cloth
- The Renaissance techniques in the 17th century

The bills of the seamstresses of the Stuart kings of England in the Great Wardrobe Accounts in the Public Record Offixce in London contain regular references to cutwork. Dorothy Speccart annually supplied James I (1566-1625, king of England from 1603) with one or two dozen night cappes wrought with cuttworke and edged with needleworke purle, while the bill of the lace merchant John Sheirston for the year from Michaelmas 1623 to Michaelmas 1624 shows that cutwork could be bought in separately.

- Samplers and the survival of cutwork rosettes
- Revival

The parts of the set here discussed belong among the finest pieces of lace of the first half of the 17th c. in the collections to which they belong. And the fact that they constitute a set makes them virtually unique, since only single pieces have normally survived.


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