Among the broad artistic and cultural heritage left to us by the Republic of Venice, Burano lace is one of the most interesting. Over the centuries it has been able to develop its fame, thanks to the beauty and complexity of the creations made following a unique technique.
Its birth is linked to a seafaring legend: it is said that a fisherman from Burano, going out into the open sea to fish, heard the song of the Sirens, irresistible to any man. Nevertheless he, about to get married, was able to resist it. The queen of the Sirens, amazed by his fidelity to his future bride, gave him a lace born from the foam of the sea. The beauty of the gift was such that the women of the island decided to imitate its weave and began to produce similar ones.
Beyond its fantastic origin, the legend allows us to understand the connection between lace and the world of fishermen. In fact, it is assumed that the skills of the women of Burano, who have been active in repairing fishing nets since immemorial times, started this production.
THE LACE TRADE
The earliest evidence of the lace trade dates back to the fifteenth century, accompanied by numerous publications of modellari: books containing drawings for lace and embroidery, written by the leading engravers and printers of that time. At that time, embroidery, applied to clothing, was highly appreciated by the Venetian nobility, becoming real status symbols to be shown off and flaunt.
The person who most understood the economic potential of Burano lace was Morosina Morosini, wife of Doge Marino Grimani who, at the end of the sixteenth century, founded a workshop in Venice that employed 130 lace-makers. The creations were traded throughout Europe, enjoying great success among European nobility as exclusive and refined products.
THE SUCCESS AND CRISIS OF LACE-MAKING
In the seventeenth century, the art of lace-making reached an inimitable level of technical complexity. The “rosette stitch” and the “counter-cut stitch” were invented, and creations ranged from botanical to animal fantasies, as well as Indian-style inflorescences. The lace-makers gained much notoriety, to the point that Luigi XIV, the Sun King, asked the Serenissima to transfer two hundred of them to France. The request was accepted, and the craftswomen, who moved there, spread their knowledge beyond the Alps.
If in the seventeenth century Burano lace reached the peak of its success, the eighteenth century saw its decline. With the French Revolution, the fall of the nobility and the end of the Venetian Republic, this activity lost all its value. The socio-political changes that prevailed in Europe also inexorably affected the fashion of that time. The garments rich in puff and lace , so beloved by the nobility, changed to a more sober and essential style, which determined the disappearance of the ancient art in the decades to come.
THE RELAUNCH OF THE ANCIENT ART OF LACE
Only in the 1870s, thanks to the interest of Countess Adrianna Zon Marcello and the Honorable Paolo Fabbri, the lace-making tradition revived. The two personalities, in fact, believed that teaching a craft to the women of Burano, an island that at that time was in precarious economic conditions, would have contributed to their livelihood.
Thus real schools for lace-makers were founded, financed by Queen Margherita di Savoia, including the Burano Lace School in 1872. This was how the activity flourished again and lace, re-evaluated, became part of the Umbertine fashion that prevailed at that time in the young Kingdom of Italy.
Having lost the production volumes of the past, today lace production is limited to the tourist trade and, from time to time, to the requests of a few admirers. A thick network of associations, however, is active in preserving this ancient art, which survived centuries of splendor and adverse periods, remaining one of the flagships of Venice. Since 1981 in Burano, it is possible to visit the Lace Museum, founded in the former headquarters of the Burano Lace School.
Our agency organizes guided tours to Burano that include a demonstration by an expert lace craftswoman, who will amaze you with her technical skill, handed down from generation to generation.
For more information see the tour data sheet!