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  • Place of origin:

    Flanders (historical region) (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1620 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, with cutwork decoration

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 9

In the 16th century people used plain linen handkerchiefs for the same purposes they do today. Decorated handkerchiefs, however, were often purely fashionable accessories and gifts. This example has cutwork decoration. Cutwork is the earliest form of needle lace. It is based on a woven ground, from which areas have been cut away. The technique developed during the 16th century. Lacemakers cut away increasing areas of fabric to create a geometric grid of threads over which they worked their stitches. This type of advanced cutwork became very fashionable. It reached the height of technical and stylistic perfection around 1615.

Physical description

Handkerchief of linen, with a broad border of cutwork decoration. Repeating pattern of lozenge-shaped compartments, outlined by diagonal stems with rosettes at the intersections, and each filled with a geometrical star device; the outer border is of small vandykes.

Place of Origin

Flanders (historical region) (made)


1600-1620 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Linen, with cutwork decoration


Length: 55 cm, Width: 53.5 cm

Object history note

Purchased. Registered File number 82095/1903.

Descriptive line

Handkerchief decorated with cutwork, Flanders, 1600-1620

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Levey, Santina M. Lace: A History. London: Victoria & Albert Museum; Leeds: W.S. Maney, 1983, Pl. 48.
Browne, Clare. Lace from the Victoria & Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2004, Pl. 5

Labels and date



Handkerchiefs were ornamental rather than practical, as illustrated in the portrait alongside, showing Anne Cecil, later Countess of Stamford. This example is decorated with cutwork, the earliest form of needle lace. The best quality linens came from Flanders and some of the finest whitework and lace were made there.

Linen decorated with cutwork
Flanders (Belgium)
Museum no. 484-1903 [2008]

Production Note





Needle lace

Subjects depicted

Rosettes; Geometric patterns


Lace; Accessories; Textiles; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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