The history of Burano lace

Martina Vidal Venezia has its headquarters in Burano, the island known all over the world for the extraordinary artisanal production of Venetian lace.

Burano lace-making art became popular in the Republic of Venice in the 1500s. A strong boost to its spreading was given by the Dogaressa (wife of the Doge) Morosina Morosini who, having been enchanted by the typical Venetian needle lace-making art, created at the end of the XIV century a workshop, where she employed 130 lace makers, and whose production was used partly to increase her personal trousseau, and partly to be sent as gift to the most prestigious European courts on special occasions.

By the time, Venetian laces became more and more sought-after and requested all over Europe. It is reported that for the day of his coronation Louis XIV, King of France, wore an original and precious lace collar, made in two years of hard work by very skilful lace makers from the island of Burano, which stood out on his royal mantle.

In the seventeenth century, the par excellence century of lace, which was used for men, women, children, and ecclesiastical clothes, Venice was specialized in the production of inimitable and elegant needle lace creations, even if the bobbin lace technique was still used. The Venetian art of lace became very popular in France, and thanks to Caterina de Medici and the Minister Colbert, some lace makers moved from Burano to the royal factories of Remis in France under the direction of sister Maria Colbert, the Minister’s niece, where the so called "Punto in aria" (typical of Burano lace) was used. In 1665 the "Punto in aria" became "Point de France", thus starting a strong competition with Burano lace. Despite this, the Point de France was never able to equal the Venetian one.

In 1797 with the end of the Republic of Venice, lace production also ended, and it became an exclusively family-run business.  The winter of 1872 was very cold and for the economy of Burano based exclusively on fishing it was a real tragedy. It was thanks to the countess Adriana Marcello and the member of the government Paolo Fambri, that the needle lace art became popular again with the aim of easing somehow the economical conditions of Burano island.

The memory of the golden age of Burano lace was preserved by an eighty-year old lady, Vincenza Memo – also called Cencia Scarpariola, who revealed her secrets to an elementary school teacher, Anna Bellorio d'Este that taught them to her daughters and other girls.

The "Punto in Aria" and "Punto rosa" made a comeback, a lace school was opened and the needle lace represented the main economical resource for the island of Burano. Thanks to countess Adriana Marcello, many noblewomen of that period – such as the princess Sassonia Weimar, the duchess of Hamilton, the countess Bismark, the princess Metternich, the Queen of Holland, and Queen Margherita – placed important orders with the school and, by 1875 the lace makers were more than one hundred.

The production of the school increased more and more until 1915 when the First World War started. During the Second World War and the following years, the school faced alternating periods of ups and downs, until 1970 when it was closed.

Burano Lace today

The ladies who are knowledgeable in the lace art are very few and preferably work at home. At the Martina Vidal atelier you can appreciate how these expert lace workers are still able to create lace using the same techniques as their ancestors of the 1600s.

Lace makes our collection of table cloths, table covers, centre-pieces, collars, linen, handkerchiefs, fans, wedding veils unique. These products used to embellish the most important mansions of Europe and adorn ladies and knights at important events.

 

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