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  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1685-1695 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Needle lace in linen thread

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Margaret Simeon

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA10

This needle lace flounce would have been part of a set, intended for furnishing or possibly ecclesiastical use. The set was probably divided up and dispersed in the 19th century, and there are further sections and fragments in a number of other museum collections. Its quality and elaborate symbolism suggest that it may have been a commission associated with the court of Louis XIV of France (reigned 1643-1715). The design incorporates theatrical figures, crowns, canopies, obelisks, trophies of arms and portrait medallions, all set among scrolling flowers. The figure holding a sceptre below a laurel wreath held by two putti has been interpreted as Louis XIV himself, especially as a sun appears above his head, but the composition also includes the moon and stars together with owls to represent night so may be allegorical.

In 1665 the French government established state-sponsored lace industries to develop local production, and stop the import of costly Venetian needle lace and Flemish bobbin lace. The government persuaded Venetian and Flemish lacemakers to come to France. It allocated them to a number of towns selected as centres for the new industry. The most successful was the needle lace industry based at Alençon and Argentan. French needle lace, known as 'point de France', soon began to compete with Venetian needle lace. It developed the distinctive form shown here, with patterns in the style of Jean Bérain (1637-1711), a leading designer at the court of Louis XIV, appointed Dessinateur de la Chambre et du Cabinet du Roi in 1674.

Physical description

Flounce of raised needle lace in linen thread.

Place of Origin

France (made)


1685-1695 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Needle lace in linen thread


Length: 340 cm, Width: 64 cm

Object history note

Registered File number 1992/524.

This flounce would have been intended for furnishing or possibly ecclesiastical use. The original flounce or set of flounces was probably divided up in the 19th century. Its quality and elaborate symbolism suggest that it was a royal commission, and it has been associated with the Court of Louis XIV.
Further pieces and fragments are known in other collections :
T.29-1949 (V&A, bequesthed by Lady Ludlow)
T.258-1922 (V&A, bequeathed by Miss M B Hudson)
Bowes Museum Blackborne Collection no. 197
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam inv. R.B.K.1980-86 (purchased Christies, London, 1980, from collection of Mrs John Mulholland nee Olivia Vernon, from her grandmother Mrs Walter Burns, sister of J Pierpont Morgan)
Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York inv.1950-121-36 (given by Richard Greenleaf)
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, F25W49-B.72 (purchased form Lady Kenmare in 1897, made up of 19 fragments)
Burrell Collection, Glasgow, inv.24/32
Musee de la Mode, Paris
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC inv. 26.200 (collection of William A Clark)
Hillwood Museum, Washington DC (from Marjory Merriweather Post)
Cleveland Museum of Art
Brooklyn Museum
piece sold at auction Jean-Marc Delvaux, Paris, 11/10/1999, lot D4 (from Collection Lescure)
piece photographed in collection of Mr Jules Woernitz, Paris, in 1888, present whereabouts unknown

Descriptive line

Flounce of raised needle lace in linen thread, France, 1685-1695

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

The provenance and symbolism of the lace is discussed in the Catalogue of Textiles in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, 1986, by Adolph S Cavallo, no. 70.

Cavallo notes that it has been speculated that the figure holding the sceptre is the Dauphin, and that the portraits and emblems in the pattern refer to the Court of Louis XIV. 'Certainly the pattern reflects the taste and some of the favourite motifs of the court of the Sun King; it is possible, if not likely, that the representation of the royal crown and the sun's face refer to Louis XIV. However, the presence of the night motif [moon and stars] balancing the sun, and the generalised nature of the medallion heads and the male and female figures indicate that the pattern is allegorical rather than historical in intent. The pattern, and the lace itself, may have been commissioned by the king or an important member of his entourage, but there is nothing in the iconography of the design to prove such an assertion. Clearly the pattern celebrates a military victor or victory, but the reference is not specific.'
The Flounce in the Rijksmuseum is included cat. no. 20 in 75 x Lace by Patricial Wardle (Rijksmuseum, 2000). She notes that owing to the fame of the design (in a number of major museum collections) copies of motifs from the lace were made in the late 19th century, including by the Brussels manufacturer Alphonse Nossent.


Linen thread


Needle lace making

Subjects depicted

Sun; Moon


Lace; Textiles; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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