Lace Trade in Bohemia

The lace, as a clean-cut kind of a textile work, has accompanied the Man's cultural development only since the 16th century, when it has become and remained a significant part of both the clothing and the interior decoration in all style and artistic periods.

The transparent, airy fabric, variably alternating dense and loose woven areas, called the lace only relatively recently, has its development lowest degrees in much older hand techniques, the origin of some of which dates to the primeval ages. The Danish and Dutch findings from the Early Bronze Age, as well as the Coptic findings from the older era, namely from the 4th and 5th centuries, provide materials that cannot be identified with the modern lace in the craftsman respect, but it shows a number of connections - techniques that are between netting, crochet and knitting.

Findings of textiles from our territory of 8th to 10th centuries evidence that the Slavs made not only rough textiles but also very fine ones with complex weaves. Remarkable for us is the fragment of linen with a lozenge hole made in such a way that the warp threads are gradually led aside as a woof and then again returned back to the function of warp threads. From the viewpoint of our research, even more interesting is the scrap of a very fine textile of ending the tape into waist, 1.5 cm wide. On the 6 cm of its length, 16-times the linen weave alternates with the weave called "leno" which functions as a hemstitching. But the explanation is such that the technological process is repeated twice, when two warp threads are already rewound by 90 and secured by the woof thread.

This method itself disproves weaving on loom and suggests an idea of weaving on comb or of a technique that knows rewinding threads, i.e. bobbin lace making. Also the finding of a print of a burnt textile on a pike re-melted by heat suggests the lace fabric which, probably, was not made with using any looming technique.

Different ways of warp or woof destroyal may be regarded as a strain of the lace in case the fabric are to be connected not through a simple sewing only but through a visibly decorative way or if the fabric rim is to be expressively decoratively reinforced. Some of these old techniques have existed already when the lace or embroidery started their existence. Lace making techniques are multiform and diverse.

They use the thread or systems of threads that are crossed, interlaced, interwoven, entangled or fabric on which the lace is embroidered in a loomed way. More or less airy loomed textile in whose preparation a hook), needle, pricker, auxiliary footplates, frame, loom or fingers were used as a tool, again and again arouses admiration and esteem, whether it is the lace from any era, a solid, rigid or fine lace. With us, if we speak of historical or artistic value of the lace we usually think of the sewn lace and mainly bobbin lace.

We find its origin in the old knotted, woven or entangled textiles. It has probably developed from the technical fixation of the fabric's end, which became the rim's decoration.

The warp threads, bound up in fringes, sometimes make a pattern. The bobbin lace's predecessors were also fringes, fabric knitting on frame, and the netting - work from one thread. The development of the technique was complex, in its final appearance, however, bobbin lace is a textile technique specific for making the lace only.

In Italy, a mention of the lace comes from 1469, of the bobbin lace from around 1493. In Venice, the medieval link of cultural influences and the business crossroad between the East and the West, the lace samplers were being issued already in the first decades of the 16th century. In 1529, Nicolo d`Aristotelo, called Zoppino, issued the Esemplario dei lavori sampler here - a copy of this book of 1530 has been preserved in Bohemia in the Lobkowicz library at the Roudnice chateau. Books of Cesare Vecellio introduce a garment called by the Venice ladies as "schiavonesco", i.e. Slavonic, solved in the way of Slavonic folk costumes and decorated in connections with loomed tapes. Samplers of the woven and bobbin lace, which were issued in the 16th century in Italy and France, offered Renaissance patterns with elements of the Oriental and Eastern ornamentics.

Many of these samplers, for which the patterns were drawn by famous artists including Albrecht Drer, were re-issued in Western Europe in the era of the historic styles at the end of the 3rd quarter of the 19th century. By means of the so-called Model bocher the lace vas cultivared into fashionable and aristocratic art.Women of the highest ranks were interested in the lace but it became part also of the folk clothing.

In Bohemia, this is documented with the assembly findings of the 15th and 16th centuries that repeatably inhibit peasants to wear the lace on the shirts. Thus, these bans come from the times when some decorative textile techniques reached a high perfection and the transparent fabric made by means of them was already called the lace.

The assumption that on the territories of Bohemia and Moravia an awareness of the lace and of the ways of its making existed soon after their origin, is given by their geographical position in the centre of Europe. Since the old times, important business paths connecting all cardinal points of the Continent, led here.

Ibrahim ibn Jakub, member of the Cordoba Chalifs legation to Otto 1st, the Emperor, recorded in 965 in his report many valuable pieces of information on the economic and social life of the Slavs. Among other also a notification that their goods goes by land and sea to Russia and Instanbul, and also a piquancy on the traditional knowledge of the decorative textile techniques in Bohemia (which he calls "Bujima", i.e. the land of Boleslav 2nd, the best country of the North).

Prague is the largest city of business, it is built of stone and lime, Russians, Slavs, Muslims of the Turkish lands, Jews come here with goods, and Turks also with merchandise and trade coins. The Bujims themselves had another means of payment, however. They trade and exchange between themselves, they carry through with scarves of the local origin and have a constant price: "light scarves of a fine fabric in shape of a neto"

Other direct or indirect evidence confirms the knowledge of various decorative textile techniques in our territory. Sometimes they occur also on the Czech painting on wood since the half of the 14th century. Since the 16th century, the lace may be currently seen on the portraits of the Czech noblemen and citizens, even if its origin remains unknown. Written mentions are still older testimony. Also in this country, nuns in cloisters were engaged in decorating the liturgical garments, and their work was known also abroad. In 1115, Bishop Zdik sent such garment to the Pope Eugen 3rd.

The St. George monastery in Prague had its artistic textile school already in 13th century, the Brevnov abbot Bavarus purchased the ceremonial gowns from the nuns of the cloister in Doubravnice u Olomouce, and in 1296 - 1306 he built the fabricam artificum in claustroì in Brevnov from where also comes the priecisely formulated record in the inventory dated with the year of 1390: Casula clavata id est wyrazyewana cum gallis ..." ,which, so far, is the first mention on the bobbin lace work.

With the so-called "artificial embroidery" many of the gentlewomen were engaged. Also the queen Elizabeth of Premyslids was very skilful in the decorative techniques. In 1310, she herself sewn and decorated her wedding garment, and some of her works belong to the treasury of the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.

Historic sources inform on the spreading business and assortment of goods, about foreign merchants from Venice, Florence and Genoa settle permanently in Prague in the 13th century. With the development of crafts, also names of kinds of support behind which one can suspect production or usage of the lace as a decorative accessory. Bohemia was open to business and thus also to fashion whose whims were liable to not the mansions only but also the inhabitants of the settlements around the castle and of the developing towns. Clothing of the rural population absorbed the changes in fashion with a delay, and some features remained conserved just in the folk clothing, including the patterns of the lace with Renaissance motifs. The rural environment also preserved the old names of the lace, like tkanice, tkanicky (lace), knitted lace, mrizky (grilles), found in archive sources.

Madonna from Jindrichuv Hradec, detail. Before 1400. National gallery in Prague

Putting in the grave, Master of Trebon altar, around 1380



Czech queen Anna Jagelonska was burried 30.1.1547. She has this beautiful silk bonnet on the head

Portrait of Sabina Viktorie Libstejnska from Kolowraty, dated 1616. The gallery of Kolowrat castle in v Rychnov nad Kneznou. Photo: V. Maryska, Monument Preservation Institute Pardubice

Portrait of Albrecht Libstejnsky from Kolowraty, dated 1616. The gallery of Kolowrat castle in v Rychnov nad Kneznou. Photo: V. Maryska, Monument Preservation Institute Pardubice

Jan Bezdruzicky from Kolovraty was painted in 1568 in the cloths decirated with lace. The gallery of Kolowrat castle in v Rychnov nad Kneznou. Photo: V. Maryska, Monument Preservation Institute Pardubice


Girls decorated their foreheads with colour tapes and lace; the ones from richer families used golden lace. Lace with gallons were used as garment decoration by both sexes. Women hid their hair under wimples, caps and, according to the dictate of fashion, both women and men bound their hair with various nets. Beside the embroiders, the medieval garment was decorated also by metallic thread embroidery makers who were in great demand. Prague municipal books of the first half of the 15th century list several such metallic thread embroidery makers as owners of houses. Among craftsmen of the time, also braid makers and gallon makers belonged, and specialists for dangle knot making.

Wimples, frills and veils made by wimple makers, wreath makers and cap makers belong to the list of other crafts where the knowledge or usage of decoration made by textile techniques may be assumed .Beautiful fine wimples in which foreign customers were interested, were made on reed or on a weaving loom made by wimple makers or wimple weavers whose association in Hora is mentioned in 1444.

Later, works of the women weavers of Klatovy became famous and found market as far as Vienna. Wimples accompanied the woman garment still in the 16th and 17th centuries and remained a beautiful part of the folk costume. The same is valid of caps, ruffs, aprons, scarves-handkerchiefs and loomed knitted stockings.

Even modest women used to have more than one wimple. According to the sources, in the 15th century, different wimples were used in summer, in winter, made of flax, cotton, with golden rim. Wimples used to be most often of threads, called samokroutky or samokrutniky. Also mentioned is whimple made of silk. In the 16th century, the list is far longer; Prague lady citizens had a great choice of wimples, caps and other  parts of garment at home.

In 1582, medieval barman Motycka's wife had, among other, also "a golden cap with white embroidery and bobbin lace" . Zuzana Koralkova left 10 gowns with red and black embroidery with colours and silver, 22 gowns with white lace, 3 simple gowns, 2 collars with lace, a simple collar, simple white caps, 2 pearl ones, a golden string cap, another golden one with trumpery, cap with silver, another one with gold and silver on net, a silk cap with a pearl eye. From other inheritances, we could add transparent wimples with a cross lace, sewn by cutting, with silver or colours on net. In 1570, Jan of Vertenberk made a debt of 3 Meissen Threescores for two such splendid wimples.

To complete our idea of such a medieval wardrobe: Vorsila Nejepinska left 31 caps, 15 skirts and tafetta corsages, Damascene and velvet, and 8 other corsages, one of them with a golden lace, 43 aprons, among them also some with gold on net, 43 scarves and handkerchiefs, some with gold or colours and frill. Starched ruffs with grilles and lace were worn by peasants too.

Jindrich Bezdruzicky from Kolowraty has his hair hidden under a flexible net. 1522-26. The gallery of Kolowrat castle in v Rychnov nad Kneznou. Photo: V. Maryska, Monument Preservation Institute Pardubice

Rennaissance net for hair with a round medaillon from the 16th century. Combination if different techniques: macrame, needle lace, embroidery, sewing. Found in the well at the church of Holy Trinity in the Prague castle.


Among listed names of garment decorations, behind which we could find techniques for making the loomed textile, begins to occur, at the end of the 16th century, the expression "with prong" or "with lace". We can also find gowns and Silesian coronets with lace and a notification that, in 1602, one cubit of suspender lace cost 8 mites . In a record from 1608 on a case of Salomena Kaprikova, a Jew, we can find a mention of a silver foam, wimple collars and 3 packs of missikorn.

Probably, this is the lace made of nettle fibre, plainly called missikorns.

But even after we read all this data we do not know if the description distinguishes the kind of the making technique. Even at the caps with the "bobbin work" it is stated that it was embroidered.

Also the Italian reticella is made by sewn by cutting with colours on netì are also the folk net textiles of the Moravian Slovakia Region. Patterns, in particular the relief ones, were also sewn into the net. The delicacy of the work and the well balanced compositions of patterns attest that the technique of netting was known in our territory - not only in Moravia - for a very long time.



Also, concerning the expression nacelniky slezske s krajky, we do not know if this new name means the Moravian lace and knitted laceì for head decoration or if it distinguishes the West Slavonic tape lace the knowledge of which with us we can assume much earlier, from the new fashionable lace.

The Renaissance sewn and bobbin lace has spread from Italy across France to other countries of Western Europe where it soon domesticated and reached an exclusive position on the European market, above all the lace from the Netherlands and Belgium where the lace makers used various possibilities of combining the elements and techniques. Also our country was prepared sensitively percept and receive such a cultivated lace. It met the taste, and with its technology it followed the skilfulness of the peoples and offered new gainful possibilities. In the poor mountainous and submontaneous regions, above all in the previously mining ones. Also in our territory, the lace trade was accompanying gainful possibility of a miner's family.

The same situation also was in the Krusne Mountains , where in the middle of the 16th century the mining for ore rapidly declined. At that time the history of lace-making in Bohemia actually starts. Its beginning is associated with Barbora Uttmanova who came from Flanders and in 1561 settled down in Annenberk belonging today to Germany.

The city was famous for local trimming production. Bobbins were also used in trimming and braid-making, and some products even resemble lace. Bobbin made lace are reported to be produced in Saxony as early as in 1556 and it may be supposed that more perfect way of lace-making spread into our country as well. Barbora Uttmanova might have been organizing the lace trade as well as the lace production also on the Czech side of the Krusne Mountains. In the course of the 16th century of about 10,000 people went in for lace-making in this region. It is impossible to imagine such a swift spread of a new lace-making technology without a presupposed knowledge of the local conditions as well as sufficiency of free workforce.

Just exclusively in mines found in our country such conditions occurred in the late 15th century, making thus way for new forms of production relations - miners were hired labourers who, after the mines had been closed down, were deprived of a possibility to make their living and had to move to other place or to find another way of earning. This can help explain such a fast spread of lace-making also to the Sumava Mountains. Rudolf II decree allowing various craftsmen as well as lace-makers to settle down in the city of Hostoun also backs this hypothesis.

Despite fashion trends raising demands for lace as early as in the 16th and 17th centuries, lace-making was maintained among the masses as one of the ways of making money exclusively in the region of the Krusne Mountains.

Lace-making cannot be found in the list of craftsmens corporation. But if we presuppose that bobbins were used also by shoe-lace makers, braid and trimming makers, then the following revelation may be fairly interesting: corporation of shoe-lace makers settled in Prague Old Town protested against newcoming craftsmen and specified themselves in a new order from 1592 as producers of gold and silk shoe-lace.

Also corporation of ribbon-makers, who rejected female workforce claiming that these ìare not supposed to touch the craftì, offers another explanation. Lace, however, have always been created mostly by women. Also production of plain ribbons made from available materials as well as cotton, is mentioned in archives as a home labour performed by women completing as a rule final products of various crafts.

The economic situation in Bohemia in the 16th and 17th centuries was rather unsuitable for a rapid development of organized production. Countries under the Czech crown became parts of multinational Habsburg Monarchy in the 16th century, and were forced to cover a great deal of costs needed in a lengthy war against Turkey. Both regular and irregular taxes were risen four times in the course of the second half of the 16th century.

Royal cities based and restricted by production of craftsmen´s corporation aimed at local market, were struggling for their privilege against the nobles who steeped up effort to control the market and gain power over this period. In the early 17th century, 11 noble families owned a half of all arable land in Bohemia. Also church was becoming more mighty, particularly in Moravia where 20% of all land belonged to the church. Servitude was becoming yet tougher, obligations of retainers were growing and expanding monopoly of noble authorities kept down the development of goods production as well as utilization of hired workers and progress in production technologies.

Whereas western European middle classes were on rise - which later culminated in bourgeois revolutions in Netherlands and England - the Czech cities stagnated. Only in some of them the production of cloth and linen intended for remote markets expanded. Linen production, into which foreign capital started to penetrate, together with new system of production in the form of scattered manufactures was expanding most quickly.

After the defeat of the Estates on Bila hora in 1620, the 30-year war which devastated all central Europe, topped up the economic decline. The territory of Bohemia and Moravia plundered by Swedish troops was depopulated as a result of forcible recatolization to which retainers responded by uprising and mass emigration. Hundreds of nobles and thousands of city-people left the country as well. Together with foreign nobles, who in many case substituted the locals, west European lace-making was brought into the Orlicke Mountains. Magdalena Grambova was thought to be a founder of lace-making in this region. She was a wife of a senior lieutenant of imperial troops, a Netherlander, who in 1627 became owner of Vamberk estates.

Tape lace of cut motifs, Slovacko

Tape meandering lace. Lace of this type used to be made in Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and Dalmatia

He deprived the city of Vamberk of all its rights and privileges, and imposed manorial labour also to the town-hall officials. After his death, Magdalena took over the reign in the region. She was said to teach Vamberk women how to make lace with Belgian patterns. For the first time in history, lace in Vamberk were mentioned in 1642, a year later Vamberk was visited by a Belgian lace-maker.

Lace were made for nobles and lace-making became a part of obligations connected with manorial labour. Short time during which the technology was mastered proves a hypothesis of developing local knowledge which, enriched by western methods and trends in fashion, helped the countess Gramb realize her plans and perhaps also business activities. The fact that lace-making became a part of manorial labour was a definite guarantee of a steady and sufficient supply with demanded goods. Home market and call for this assortment even from the villages themselves could not have relied exclusively on lace from Krusne Mountains or from abroad.

Tradesmen certainly had their local hinterland. Pardon taxes from 1685 - 1686 provide information about Jewish tradesmen. The list of goods for which taxes were to be paid included golden, silver and white lace. In some cases also labour was subjected to a tax, therefore it could be supposed that also the Jews were either direct lace producers or somehow directly tied with the production. Lace preserved on synagogue ceremonial cloths proves independent development of lace even in the Jewish environment. Also literature drawing information from archive sources from the 15th and 16th centuries report on golden strings which Prague Jewish women elaborated into lace.

Also rough linen multipair lace decorating the garment of a countess and dame Kocova from Dobrse from the break of the 17th and 18th centuries, unearthed in a family tomb under the church in Nyrsko, seem to be of a local origin.

Despite suggestions and calls for improvement of economic management of the Habsburg monarchy urging to support development of manufactures, this century enriched the lace-making in our country by a mass production of lace which was a result of manorial labour obligations. A lawyer Malinsky from Maliv mentioned lace in 1663. In his letter he urged the monarch not to export undervalued goods from Habsburg countries which are much richer in raw sources than Italy, France or Holland. The worth of these goods may be elevated by home production which would, at the same time, provide possibilities of making livings, enrich the country by establishing manufactures and extend the trade. Besides other raised arguments he claimed that one pound of linen costs only a few groschens and by making a cloth or a lace from this linen it was possible to make a few gold coins.

In the course of the 18th century these proposals were understood and realized under the state supervision. At that time lace-making in Bohemia became fairly well-known and was spreading into all known parts or our country. The Habsburg's power in Europe was threatened by deepening economic crisis. In the first half of the 18th century the stage of the economy in Bohemia was checked. Teresian register served a basis for the check-up and calculation of taxes which were expected to fill the empty state treasury. This register shows a picture of a depleted country, particularly villages, and many a time it proves that vanishing mining economy was substituted with lace-making.

The area of the Krusne Mountains was considered to be a region where lace-making was the main source of making living (about thirty villages within the district of Loket were reported to be involved into this business). A record of the same importance could also be found about the city of Vamberk on the foot-hills of the Orlicke Mountains, where otherwise spinning was mentioned as the main way of making oneís living. Until the first half of the 18th century there appeared reports viewing lace-making as labour obligations of women in Sedlicie (Sumava Mount.), the owner of the local estates was a countess Ludmila Cerninova. Teresian register does not mention lace-making in Prague in the first half of the 18th century.

We suppose that lace-making is bearing a name of different crafts and corporations, the foundation of which falls into the days when the term LACE did not exist. Statistics of a textile production from 1775 mentions a lace master from Prague Male Mesto who had 20 journeymen, 22 apprentices and 813 home employees. Also other data demonstrate lace-making development in the form of scattered manufactures: tradesmen offering lace and lace-makers can be found among small businesses also in some other areas besides the Krusne Mountains and Vamberk, namely in the Sumava and southern Bohemia. Bobbin lace were also made in Moravia.

Lace-making providing living for thousands of people got into the sphere of a state concern. In 1751 Marie Teresa gave it a statute of an independent business. This step belonged to numerous reforms which the monarchy - exhausted by wars and overloaded by a state debt - had to turn to in order to remove most serious obstacles of economic development. General crafts articles limited the power of crafts corporations, changes of duty rules helped develop the industry and trade. Home market duties were cancelled, home production was protected by high import taxes and bans over a great many products. In 1764, also lace were involved into other textile products.

A court decree established linen and cloth making to be the main directly supported industrial branches in Bohemia. In order to increase quality of the yarn as well as the production itself, letters of patents were issued in 1765 - 1766 obliging cities, villages, local authorities, crafts corporations and even individuals to establish spinning and weaving schools which should have been attended by all unemployed, tramps, beggars and even children. From the half of the 60's, the development of manufactures was supported by the government providing financial loans. Statistics from 1768 shows the most considerable goods for export - namely cloth, printed scarves, linen yarn and threads. Their export was worth over 3 million gold coins and the threads were also purchased by lace-makers in Slovakia.

Also the manufacture owned by a count Clary belonged to those which received governmental financial support and thus it was give 12 thousand gold coins in 1772. The letter of patent atapeoning serfdom issued in 1781, was a noteworthy change which substantially enlarged workforce offer. Statistics on textile products in Bohemia in 1780 register 541 lace-makers with 1,810 journeymen and 7,403 casual workers, whereas a year after the serfdom was atapeoned the number of casual workers rose up to 12,999. Around the year 1800 the official report registers 16,743 lace-makers in the region of the Krusne Mount only.

Fifty years later 40,000 - 60,000 people lived on lace-making, working namely for lace-making companies and tradesmen in Jachymov, Vejprty and Nejdek. The goods were exported to western Europe and Hungary, later on mainly to Germany, England, Italy and the U.S. As early as in the early half of the 18th century, our lace-making built a wonderful reputation thanks to production of frequently demanded black lace from silk and threads made in a Spanish vogue.

Also Marie Teresa herself made an important step towards lace-making development, the quality of which was able to compete European lace-making production. In 1767 Marie Teresa ordered to establish a lace school in Prague. Therefore a Belgian teacher was called in to teach 118 girls to make Brussels lace and demanded black and white silk blondes .(From 1714, the territory of Belgium belonged to a Habsburg monarchy). Not long after peace negotiations in Campo Formio in 1797, which finished a 5-year war rampaging in Europe but at the end of which the Habsburg monarchy lost the so called Austrian Netherlands taken by troops of a revolution France, the emperor Frantisek Ist managed to keep on effort initiated by Marie Teresa.

Golden lace on the cover of torah from Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, 1662. Calix-like motives created by linen on a tenuous pink web are frequently repeated motives which can be seen in minor variations on lace of synagogue textiles. Prague.

With help of a wife of a staffís doctor Vandencruyse and their 4 daughters a lace-making manufacture was founded in 1806 in Vienna . Also Czech girls attended lessons at this school which was in 1817 relocated to Prague. Three out of five other schools, founded thanks to initiative of Frantisek I, were established in the Krusne Mountains and in 1816 a sewed hand-made lace was introduced there by a count Josef Auersperk. Also Prague school directed by one of Vandercruysí daughters, who founded another 15 schools within 2 years, was spreading a professional education. In 1804, a countess Truchses-Zeilova made an attempt to establish a network of lace-making education system in Moravia in Kunvald by Novy Jicin.

Her school was running until 1820 but organized production did not catch on there; in major regions in Moravia the lace were still made at homes or they were bought from other regions, preferably from Bohemia. Lace-making schools situated within our territory were under the influence of Vienna headquarters as long as until the independent Czechoslovak republic was established in 1918.

In the course of the 2nd half of the 18th century when national costumes were coming into their final look, lace became favourite also in folk environment which could efficiently utilise not only properties of the lace - its flexibility and easy manipulation - but it also took ingenious benefit of aesthetic features of a lace. Peopleís invention penetrated also into patterns and technology of bobbin-made lace. Thus regional specific features and regional patterns became a cultural heritage. Folk lace-makers were working from memory, without patterns, and some types of lace even without pins. Lace-making in our country was rapidly developing. Also tradesmen and foremen adjusted to the needs of the country.

Folk multi-pair lace, on the pattern without drawing, Sedlice u Blatne, southern Bohemia, turn of the 18th and 19th century. R. Bibova supposes that lace of this type may have origin in a traditional production of veils and bonnets made on stands called ìstavekì and exported abroad from this region in the 16th century. (The stand is still given the same name in southern Bohemia).

In the early 19th century home production was protected by the state. In 1818 high duty was imposed on foreign lace import. Production was expanding, besides main lace-making border regions also other production centres were located around Mlada Boleslav, Tabor, Litomysl, bobbin-made lace were also created around Nymburk, Chlumec nad Cidlinou etc. With extending lace trade and export into remote markets, patterns were transferred from one region into another and technological processes exerted mutual influence on each other. Despite all these, the lace of individual regions differed from each other.

Once the national costumes became extinct and fashion trends changed in the 50's of the 19th century, the lace sales began to drop also as a result of competition with machine production. In some regions and place where yet in the 1st half of the 19th century lace-making was living of the whole family and even men and children were making bobbin lace, the production became atapeoned or reduced, and even women were seeking other sources of living. Also the mode of trade, types of lace and way of production was undergoing some changes. In about 1880, English bobbin lace-making machines were imported into Letovice.

Companies, for which lace were made within our territory, as well as producers themselves made an effort to elevate the level of manual production, made it perfect and adjusted to the time outlook by introducing new patterns and providing the professional training to their lace-makers. National production keeping on traditional patterns could not compete with a foreign one.

In 1878, following exhibitions in Vienna and Paris (1873 and 1878), a special lace exhibition was held by an art and industrial museum in Vienna where immediately a central lace-making course was established and focused again on lace-making in the Krusne Mount. Also various women gatherings, regional and local branches of National union as well as commercial and trade chambers in Plzen, Cheb and Hradec Kralove struggled to support shrinking manual production. New sales possibilities were sought at economic exhibitions in larger cities and lace were also on display at the jubilee countryí s General exhibition in 1891 as well as at the Ethnographic Czech and Slavonic Exhibition held in Prague in 1895.

Ethnographic Exhibition played a remarkable role in the development of Czech lace-making. It introduced lace-making in a historic process and in connection with national culture, providing comparison of the Czech lace with other countries. At the time, when uprising tendencies backed on our rich history and specific Czech culture started to culminate in our country, the Ethnographic Exhibition promoted serious concern of researchers. During the period of preparing and collecting exhibits for this exhibition, the material on lace-making was raised by Marie Smolkova and Regina Bibova, both teachers at a municipal girls technical school in Prague, where they also gave lessons and held lace-making courses.

Lace-making regions in Bohemia and Moravia.

Krosna - a case with straps in which goods were carried by a foreman from Vamberk in early 19th century. This was a typical device for foremen lace-makers when they set out for long business trips in order to sell the lace. Those from Vamberk headed for Germany, Silesia, Slovakia and Hungary. Only in the 2nd half of the 19th century post stage-coaches and partially railway could have been used

Their experience was elaborated in the book bearing a title Lace and lace-making of Slavonic nation in Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and Hungarian Slovakia. They dealt with the origin and independent development of Slavonic lace, and demonstrated mutually permeating east and west European technologies in pictures. By raising arguments and hypotheses to which also pieces ìfrom a free handì belong, as well as fixing the lace with thorns (which they had mentioned in Silesia and Slovakia) they tried to prove that bobbin lace-making was not quite so new for the Slaves in the 16th century, though its fame was brought up by Italy and western Europe working with patterns and a plenty of pins.

Their theory is convincing and logical, however it is actually impossible to be verified, and thus we have to agree with the authors at least at the conclusion, where the situation is illustrated as follows: ìIn Bohemia as well as in other Slavonic countries there exist home traditions which were at a certain moment influenced by the West and accepted more complicated techniques into its simple rustic repertoire.

Documentation of R. Bibova shows mutual permeation of the technique of continuous and tape lace - individual meanders of the tape were later sewed up by needles.

Another way of artistic effect of the tape in a continuous web.

Continuous lace

Folk lace exerted a strong influence on the Czech public. Those working in ethnography tried to return folk ornaments into present-day culture to enrich the range of patterns intended for lace-making production . Museums in co-operation with commercial and trade chambers advertised competitions and hold lace-making courses, those for handy lace-makers were even subsidized. New patterns were created by assembling various folk motives bearing thus all features of the racy period from which only considerable personalities of the Czech art design were honoured. This period is assessed to be decadent these days, but it helped the Czech lace to get rid of the ballast of heavy patterns typical for historic styles which, as well as the distinctive racy period, persisted in a common lace-making production far into the 20th century.

Lace for a fan. Author - directing teacher Cihak, region of Zamberk, around 1905.


Folk lace - from the competition called out by Museum of Applied Arts in Hradec Kralove and county trade chamber for lace-makers in Zamberk, Usti nad Orlici, beginning of the 20th century.


At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, besides commercial requirements, Vienna headquarters brought patterns of a new and high quality. In production coming from the Krusne Mount., the Art Nouveau lace as well as hand sewed lace hold on a high standard. Thanks to cooperation with art designers at the beginning of the 20th century, the lace were created here which exceeded conventions of the historicism of the day. New creative trends were also suggested by art designers cooperating with workshops of Wiener Werkstatte for which also lace-makers from the Krusne Mountains were working through an outlet in Nejdek.

In spite of a great number of companies and factories dealing with lace machine production being opened all over the region of the Krusne Mountains, statistics still emphasize this region for its numerous lace-makers. Out of the total of 40,000 lace-makers in all Austria, 14,000 worked just in this region where hand-made lace were made as late as until the 20th century and many masterpieces were created there.

Lace drawn by M. Hrdlickova from Grossengur (n, Krusne Mount., 1903.

Despite rising quality of the machine production and falling prices of machine-made lace threatening the manual production yet more, lace-making in economically poor regions belonged to the way of making living which the state counted on. In 1904 a decree by the monarchical regional counsel brought lace-making into primary schools., Vienna State Institute for Lace-making Home Industry tried to compensate for diminishing working possibilities by introducing modern fast technologies such as Irish crocheting which, however, was not adopted in our country. The Institute also tried to gather producers into smaller corporations which would share the same shop.

A corporation Zadruha in Prague was highly appreciated for its effort to sell Czech lace abroad. In Brno (Moravia) - Vesna was of the same importance. All lace-making courses and schools, even those which in the 19th century were founded as a result of regional urge, were nationalised and Vienna Institute supervised new patterns and the sales. Very low prices of the products were slightly risen.

After foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic, the problems got even worse as a result of production of relatively cheap machine-made lace, growth of competition, increase of delivery tariffs and rates, export duties and luxury extra charges imposed on lace by some states (such as Germany, Yugoslavia). Also devaluation of the crown after the currency separation in 1919 aggravated the situation. All home-made goods became fairly cheap for foreign tradesmen who purchased lace, yarn as well as threads in large scales causing thus lack of these items necessary for the local home lace-makers. The yarn was divided by commercial, trade and industrial headquarters along which funds supporting lace-making were established. Financial means were obtained from the sales of yarn on which a charge as high as 140% was imposed.

Even in such a complicated situation the hand-made lace production remained the main source of living in some regions. In the Orlicke Mountains the situation was alike, and in the 20's lace-making corporations in Peklo nad Zdobnici and Sopotice (district of Vamberk) were founded by local lace-makers. These corporations were awarded many prizes, however they did not resist growing competition of well-established companies and factors with a long tradition of contacts on European market. Still in 1936 the lace export was more than 4 million Crowns.

Also the invisible export selling lace in world-wide known spa centres in Bohemia, and sales on the inland market were economically still very important for the state. Replacing hand-made lace with machinery lace was a crime and a ìreal laceî was protected by the law about compulsory marking of goods.

Pattern-book - one of many delivered among schools around Zamberk. After assembling their own one this pattern-book was sent to another school and delivery was confirmed by a directing teacher. (Common text to be placed bellow three pictures).

Postcard sent by Zadruha corporation to V. Dragounova, a lace-making school teacher in Strazov

Lace-making was a recognised handicraft production which represented the national culture. In 1936 the Czech lace got a special recognition and a support when Mrs. Hana Benesova, president's wife, took over so called protectorate of real lace.

Only after World War II this effort was followed up by the corporation Vamberecka krajk y founded in Vamberk. This corporation made benefit of all experience of lace-makers in Bohemia and Moravia, cooperated with artists and realized even grandious large-scale masterpieces representing our country abroad.

After foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic the State School Institute for Home Industry, later School Institute for Art Production, took over all lace-making schools and courses and helped promote technological and artistic boom of the Czech lace-making also by creating a good base for realization of important artistic work. It also participated in development of the Czech modern lace - a phenomenon the new impulses of which were enriching the development of world lace-making in the course of the 20th century. It came to being in a special environment of a new state, urging to express our own, strong national traditions in a trendy way.

Thanks to professional schools headed by artists ,whose work formed the evolution of a Czech lace, our lace succeeded in facing a competition with west European countries, and already as the exhibition of decorative art was held in 1925 in Paris, it raised our lace to a front place.

Art Industrial School in Prague which received a university statute in 1946, bred several generations of artists who specialise in lace-making. Among its graduates there are also personalities who were at the foundation of modern Czech lace. Marie Serbouskova-Sedlackova graduated in 1925. Her work was on display in Paris were it awarded a gold prize and prize of honour.


She was familiar with both Czech and Slovak lace, the elements of which she managed to transfer sensitively into more acceptable common form. Soon she atapeoned ornament and started to utilise variability of bobbin structures creating a wide range of alternatives also with combined coloured threads. Her work, which is close to functionalism, opened an access to a new-age lace-making production and lace utilisation. Bozena Rothmayerova , inspired by folk environment, made use of thick rough linen and hemp, relieving the lace of luxury and decorative impression. Modest geometrical assemblies and remarkable structures are typical for her work.

As early as in the 30s, when Rothmayerova became a pedagogue of the School Institute for Artistic Production in Prague which was gathering all best lace-makers of those days, her work enriched the artistic life from aesthetic and function point of view. Since 1919 also Emilie Palickova cooperated with the Institute, though without any deep knowledge of technology or traditional accesses, and managed to utilise and develop all already existing techniques and emhasised the emotional power of rhythm in artistic invention.

She brought the Czech sewed lace to the top of European lace-making already in the 20s. Bobbin lace dominated in her work in about 30's, when Palickova started to work with simple elements of bobbin technique expressing thus her artistic intention. A considerable part of her composition is a well-thought network of chains and twisted pairs of threads evoking impression of pulsing lines of force, sources and lines, all these vitalising the elaborated motive. Regardless the size, all her works look monumental. Just thanks to this artist, the Czech lace tended towards monumentalism since the half of the 50's, independently of the artistic tendencies abroad.

Emilie Palickova - bobbin curtain for the world exhibition EXPO Brussels 58, detail. Composition with motives of figures and animals, continuous technique (chain, twisted pairs), material: white linen and leonís spinning, 430 x 40cm


Bozena Rothmayerova - economical table-mats, bobbin lace, linen,


At that time, Emilie Palickova ran a special studio at a College of Art and Industry focused on lace and embroidery, and later was followed by many of her girl-students - a generation which launched a good deal of pioneering work in revealing new, unconventional and surprising possibilities of the lace ulitilisation, such as a tapestry. Their works were asserted not only at home, but also in comparison with foreign lace-making work presented at great exhibitions abroad. They also were applauded at the World Exhibition EXPO Brussels in 1958. Works of young artists were on display at EXPO Montreal 1967. Generation of these artists studied in the 60-s under professor Antonin Kybala in a studio of textile art, where also Marie Vankova Emilie Palickovaís student - was teaching lace-making and embroidering. Sorting out opinions and creative accesses of two strong personalities, the lace was enriched by another aspect.

Flexibility and excellent ability to absorb and reflect light in colour shades and penetrations of a fish-net material, entered the space in monumental architectonic look. And again the lace proves its ability to mediate artistic statement. The range of means of such a statement seems endless - the lace can be of a strict geometry, picturesque impression, fragile or robust in its planar look, but also as transparent plastic work, or rather complicated spacial or even mobile object, or a work of art creating its own environment which you are allowed to step in - "aviroma".

Marie Vankova - Column, detail. Spacial composition, bobbin continuous lace, 1971. Material: linen of a various width, leonís spinning, realized by J. Stefkova.

Ludmila Kaprasova - Let's not pull down cathedrals Bobbin lace, woven linen, material: linen, hemp, cotton, gold thread, glass. Awarded a Golden Bobbin at the 1st festival in Brussels in 1983.


Bohumila Gruskova - Small queen procession, detail. Continuous lace with a narrative ethnographic motive from Moravia, material: thick linen yarn, 350 x 130cm. Realized by a corporation Vamberecka krajka. It received the main prize in EXPO Brussels 58.

A present-day Czech lace-making combines different textile techniques but does not avoid even old folk ones, such as net lace. Also authorís techniques appeared to express individual artists. Contrast of transparent and closely knit woven textiles connected into one organic whole by a common technique are utilised as well. Principles of overlapping elements of structure - warp and weft threads, structures and created spacial sheets help take advantage of specific optical regularities of colour effects while their mutual coinciding.

The whole artistic intention is intensified by the way of lighting the masterpiece. Lace-making creativity elaborates a wide range of materials, taking advantage of their effects and colours in surprising combinations and contrasts. The scale of conventional materials, supplemented by carpet wool, sisal, metallic thread and even wire, is used and combined with glass, stones, wood or paper in equivalent or promoting functions.

Luba Krejci - Wandering desire, author's own technique called nitak, around 1980.


Ludmila Kaprasova - Impatience of being, 1990. Combined technique - weaving, bobbin lace, net lace. Material: linen, hemp, cotton, glass, steel.

Work of Emilie Palickova - clear simple body of work and graphical variability of bobbin-made structures brightened by yarns of different colours which appeared seemingly overtaking its era in the work of Marie Sedlackoova-Serbouskova - contributed to seeking individual expressions and ways developed by new-coming generation of artists. It reflects in highly aesthetic work of accomplished artists whose works reach the highest imaginative power by using simple techniques.

Accomplished personalities come back to the College of Art and Industry as pedagogues or they get their experience over to new talents at secondary technical schools or by means of School Institute for Art Production. Continual education of lace-making, the topical and development inspiring contribution of which is a direct confrontation of mature artists with coming generation, its artistic and technical high level and progresiveness, all these were appreciated by world professionals and awarded the Prize of the Queen Fabiola at the second international festival in Brussels in 1985. The prize was handed over to Marie Vankova.

Emilie Frydecka - In honour of Pietro de la Francesca, detail. Bobbin lace, coloured cotton threads, 1992-1993.
Emilie Frydecka - Landscape with a highway, Bobbin lace, coloured cotton thread. Awarded a Crystal Bobbin at the 5th lace festival in Brussels, 1991.