LACIS BETROTHAL PANEL
German, 17th c.
Lacis, a netted structure of threads, is of ancient origin and was originally intended for specialized tasks such as fishing. During the Medieval and Renaissance periods in Europe, embroiderers appropriated lacis and elevated it from functional to purely decorative. Hand-knotted on frames, lacis panels were created either as horizontal grids or diamond-shaped meshes; these airy foundations were subsequently worked with a variety of stitches to form geometric or figural compositions.
Ornamented lacis was already a long established tradition in Germany by the seventeenth century; the earliest surviving fourteenth- and fifteenth-century examples are characterized by lozenge-patterned grounds, as in this piece made to commemorate a marriage. Here, the delicate network is formed of double-ply linen threads knotted at each intersection. Linked arm in arm and dressed in contemporary fashions, the bride and groom stand at center, symbolically joined by a heart. Angels supporting a large crown flank the couple; surrounding them are stylized branches with exotic fowl—peacocks, turkeys and crested hoopoes— arranged in mirror-image symmetry. Solid areas of the figures, crown and birds are worked in cloth stitch, a technique which relies on threads crossed horizontally and perpendicularly to imitate woven fabric. Filling stitches create checkerboard, zigzag, pinwheel, and honeycomb details with singleply threads; thicker, twisted threads worked in darning stitch form the tracery outlines, the geometric borders and the tiny elements interspersed throughout the composition. Sawtooth bobbin lace trims the edges.