When lace appeared in vestments and altar cloths
We can make a distinction between the appearance of lace as a decoration for table cloths and vestments. For what concerns the former there has always been an osmotic relationship between dining tablecloths and altar cloths. We mustn’t forget that the Holy Eucharist was instituted to celebrate the memory of the Last Supper and all laid tables, at least in paintings and frescoes until mid-15th century, referred to religious subjects: the Last Supper, the Supper at Emmaus, the Wedding at Cana, the Banquet at Levi’s House. Probably tovaglie perugine (tablecloths from Perugia) (see Room No. 1) originally were altar cloths. Sometimes it is difficult to say whether a small 16th-century tablecloth, with reticello e punto in aria (reticella and stitch in air), was an altar cloth or a dining tablecloth. For what concerns the use of lace as a decoration of upper clergy vestments, it keeps pace with its use in fashionable clothes. It first appeared in the 16th century and had an enormous growth at the beginning of the 17th century, as a consequence of that “need to show off” which was the distinctive characteristic of the whole century. Wonderful punto in aria (stitch in air) lace flounces trim the clothes of Pope Paul III Farnese (1534-49) and of cardinal Ferdinand de’ Medici (later Grand Duke Ferdinand I), in the painting made in 1588 and now at the Uffizi (by a painter belonging to the circle of Alessandro Allori); also the lace in the portrait of cardinal Bentivoglio painted by Van Dyck between 1622 and 1623 (Florence, Pitti Palace) was very precious and of exquisite quality.

Virtual Museum:

Room n. 5

Prelate and chapel in a late 18th-century Venetian aristocratic palace.

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