Thursday, 12 May 2016

Lace at the Great Exhibition

I spent a very interesting day yesterday at the National Art Library looking through the illustrated catalogues for some of the 19th century International exhibitions. My main interest was lace curtains but I also found lace designed by Mrs Treadwin and an article about the history of lace and embroidery by Mrs Bury Palliser. Mrs Treadwin came in for great praise in the 1851 report, which noted that ‘In lace the finest specimens of design are English, Mrs Treadwin’s flounce being, perhaps unrivalled in this respect’. Unfortunately the exhibitions later in the century tend to extol the virtues of French and Brussels lace over the British. Although none of the exhibits at these international exhibitions were for sale, I discovered that many British manufacturers would have liked to advertise their prices alongside their lace to show that although many of the continental laces were superior to the British ones they were also much more expensive. I now have lots of notes to sift through. I was also allowed to take some photos but only on condition I didn’t publish them so the image above is of a 19th century lace curtain from a catalogue I own – it wasn’t shown at any of the major exhibitions.

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