Friday, 27 August 2010

Beccadelli Workshops and Lace

Illustration: Beccadelli Workshops. Crochet lace design.

Lace design in Italy has a long and prestigious history with many areas of the country having their own specific styles, procedures and cultural input that has made the craft an intrinsic part of the decorative arts in Italy.

As far as the European revival of crafts in the latter half of the nineteenth century is concerned, Italy was just as much involved in the revival as any other area of Europe. As far as lace was concerned, the traditional lace making areas of Italy were having to compete with foreign revivals, state interventions and aggressive marketing techniques. Of particular concern was Italy's immediate northern neighbour, the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

State intervention at both the subsidised support and education level allowed the empires traditional lace making craft to be restructured and placed on a much more aggressive market led platform. This, in theory at least, was meant to give lace production a much securer place in contemporary Europe and hopefully a distinctly secure future for a craft that had always been at the mercy of subtle changes in fashions and taste.

Illustration: Beccadelli Workshops. Crochet lace design.

Austria in particular, encouraged professional designers to take on the task of updating the repertoire of lace patterns that were available to both the retail trade and the general public. Therefore, particularly at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, a strong Art Nouveau theme became almost overpowering within Austrian contemporary lace. So much so that this form of lace style is often now associated with Austrian lace work of that particular period.

Italian contemporary lace of the same period tended to improvise and re-imagine the large lace vocabulary that the various Italian regions had at their disposal. Renaissance styles were particularly popular and although not necessarily as contemporary in feel as perhaps the Art Nouveau themed Austrian lace patterns, they proved an interesting and popular diversion from the overriding fashions of the day.

The three examples shown here were produced by the Beccadelli Workshops in Bologna sometime before the First World War. They are fine examples of crochet lace and although historically themed they do not necessarily take on the appearance of the pastiche. They are in fact decoratively superior to much of what was available in Europe at the time.

Illustration: Beccadelli Workshops. Crochet lace design.

The reintroduction of past styles does not always have to problematic and counter to the contemporary world that they find themselves in. Often the reintroduction can seem like a breath of fresh air, even giving a new perspective on cultural and decorative history with contemporary designers gaining inspiration and perspective from these past styles and patterns. Italy in fact became a source of fine period style decoration though without compromising its contemporary development or contribution to European art and design. Italy itself had a healthy, focused and enthusiastic attitude to Modernism, while still being able to balance its historical contribution to the European decorative arts.

While lace production has always had to struggle through difficult periods in its history with the craft often seemingly on an endless cycle of bust and boom, it is interesting the number of interventions it has had from some often high level design teams. The period of the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, very possibly saw some of the most challenging and interesting art and design interventions within the history of the craft. Italy being no exception saw a fundamental re-evaluation of its place in the history of lace development along with its contribution to the contemporary world of the decorative arts and crafts.

Reference links:
Italian Lace Designs: 243 Classic Examples (Dover Pictorial Archive Series)
Italian Laces and Embroideries
Carmela Testa Variety #1- Italian Cutwork & Filet Lace c.1921
Old Italian Lace
Old Italian Lace - Vol. II.
Carmela Testa Variety #2 - Italian Cutwork & Filet Lace c.1926

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