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52 



BULLETIN OF THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO 




SICILIAN DRAWN-WORK OF EARLY EIGHTEENTH CENTURY IN 
COLLECTION OF LACE LENT BY MRS. ROCKEFELLER MCCORMICK 



THE Mccormick lace collection 



FROM its beginnings in the fifteenth 
century up to the present day, the art 
of lace-making is distinguished among 
handicrafts for its eventful history and for 
the definite phases through which it passed 
in its progress. To the workers of the 
Middle Ages, each new step was a triumph 
of creative imagination, so that great 
artists did not disdain to draw books of 
designs for the "noble and virtuous" 
ladies who spent their leisure hours with 
needle or bobbin. During the summer 
months the beautiful collection of old laces 
belonging to Mrs. Rockefeller McCormick 
has been on exhibit in Gunsaulus Hall, 
thus making it possible for many visitors 
to study at first hand the story of the last 
five centuries in the making of lace. 

The laces composing the collection have 
been expertly joined into coverlets. The 
illustration at the top of this page shows 
a coverlet made up of strips of fifteenth 



century Sicilian drawn-work, set together 
with coarse torchon laces from the peasant 
districts of Abruzzi. The designs of the 
drawn-work are most naive and are some- 
what archaic, since they were inspired by a 
period much earlier than that of the work 
itself. On the extreme right the panel is 
composed of two confronting peacocks, 
drinking from a fountain, alternated with 
doves in pairs, and a conventional tree. 
The third panel from the right displays a 
rampant spotted leopard, a squirrel, can- 
delabra, and a crowned eagle. In the panel 
to the extreme left are a man and his wife 
in fifteenth century costume, a tree, and a 
stag with extraordinary, horizontal antlers. 
A small dog and a triangular bird are used 
to fill the spaces. Third from the left, the 
pattern shows a mythical creature known as 
the hippograph, with the horns of a buck, 
the wings of an eagle, and the neck of a 
giraffe; two crowned figures of Flemish 



Published monthly, September to May, inclusive, at The Art Institute of Chicago. Entered as second class matter 
January 17, 1918, at the post-office at Chicago, Illinois, under the Act of August 24, 1912. Acceptance for mailing at 
special rate of postage provided for in seftion 1103, Aft of Oftober 3, 1917, authorized on June 28, 1918. Subscription 
included in membership fee, otherwise 50 cents per year. 's^ 's^ 's^ Volume XVI, Number 4 



BULLETIN OF THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO 



5.^ 





m 






I 






SICILIAN DRAWN-WORK OF EARLY EIGHTEENTH CENTURY IN 
COLLECTION OF LACE LENT BY MRS. ROCKEFELLER MCCORMICK 



origin, a lamb, and a double eagle. The 
eagle is of that Moorish type which bears 
so startling a resemblance to the birds of 
Aztec picture-writing. 

Drawn-work on fine linen was followed 
by drawn-work on coarse linen, or buratto, 
and this in turn by darned designs on net. 
Both these types, the buratto and the 
darned lacis, are remarkably well represent- 
ed in the collection. Contemporary with 
the lacis was cut-work, from which grew 
the beautiful reticello, the first real lace. 
Certain threads of the linen were drawn 
and cut, leaving other threads to form the 
skeleton of the design. On these remaining 
threads the reticello was worked in but- 
tonhole-stitch and a fine weaving-stitch. 
The many different pieces of reticello in 
Mrs. McCormick's collection clearly illus- 
trate how the simple geometric patterns, 
demanded by the weave of the linen, grew 
to the more complex and unhampered 
designs that marked the later reticello. 
Soon the lace-makers tired of limitations 
and did away with them altogether, work- 
ing their designs with fine thread over a 
pattern traced on parchment. Thus was 
born the famous punto in aria, or "stitch in 
the air," and thus lace became a thing 
quite apart from any parent fabric. 



Meanwhile another sort of lace-making 
was growing up — a craft in which bobbins 
and pillows were the tools. The difference 
between the needle-lace and the bobbin- 
lace is usually easy to detect, but occasion- 
ally the bobbin-worker copied the needle 
stitches so accurately that the eye is 
deceived. Another type of lace is mezzo 
punto, in which both sorts are combined, 
the pattern being woven with bobbins and 
the brides or fagoting done with the needle. 

Perhaps the most beautiful piece of 
punto in aria' in the country is the "Rose" 
(or "raised") point example in Mrs. 
McCormick's collection. The edges of the 
flowers and foliage are heavily padded, and 
over the cord thus formed is twisted a 
picoted chain. In the lower center of the 
piece, which is about six feet square, a 
pelican feeding her young with blood from 
her breast symbolizes the Eucharist, and 
confirms the impression that the former 
French owners used the lace as an altar- 
piece in their private chapel. 

Nothing among the bobbin-laces equals 
in magnificence this altar-cloth, though 
there are many yards of the finest Milan 
point and of the graceful Guipure de 
Fenise, besides the pillow-laces from 
Flanders, Brussels, and Spain.