The Lace Collection

Among the girls’ daily duties there was needle lace as one of the occupations for social and moral redemption.

The I.R.E. collection comprises pieces of very old lace models as well as eighteenth-century lace testifying to the early stages of the institution’s production, and nineteenth- and early twentieth-century lace attesting the continuity of this well-established and industrious tradition.

This artisanal activity was mainly carried out at the Istituto delle Penitenti, an institution that offered refuge to young girls who were willing to escape from a life of misery by mastering a craft that could redirect and elevate their lives. Elisabetta Rossi, a charitable woman from Burano, can be credited for the introduction of needle lace among the occupations for social and moral redemption, an initiative that was inspired by the undertakings of her brother Francesco, the cleric founder of the first school of lace in Burano.

Among the girls’ daily duties, needlework was also referred to as tasca, literally indicating the “pocket” on the girls’ pinafore or the drawstring workbag each girl was given to hold the quantity of thread needed for the day’s work.

The precious lace was sold by the institution governors directly to Venetian tradesmen. The product was in great demand: so fine and exclusive, Venetian lace trimmed the clothes of royals and aristocrats.

The Casa delle Zitelle was one of the finest lace manufacturing establishments (maestranze da merli d’oro) and the talent of its artisans was so well known that two of these girls were commissioned a lace collar of fine white hair that King Louis XIV of France wore on the day of his coronation.