I knew of Chantilly’s castle, its horse museum (which my children love) and its porcelain, but I knew nothing of its fine lace (dentelle) !So, having recently discovered this little-known treasure, I now wish to share it with you, my readers.
Whether you’re a lace expert, or a lace null (as I am), let’s look beyond Chantilly’s castle to discover a superb spot in the heart of the city which showcases Chantilly’s fine lace.
Tout d’abord, Un bel écrin !
The municipality of Chantilly re-opened the above-pictured museum in 2016, on the ground floor of this beautiful, Napoleonic styled building, to house its collection of around 1000 laceworks, which three passionate Cantiliennes (demonym of Chantilly) acquired to demonstrate their cities rich artisanal history, which is now locally extinct.
The association that fronted the museum’s re-opening is still active and continues to offer its support (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Un musée pour tous (a museum for all)…
The museum permits one to discover, or deepen, one’s knowledge of lacework; I find it’s accessibility (it is, after all, a museum for all) to be its greatest attribute. Indeed, lace experts may participate in thematic meetings and visits, while novice’s may discover la dentelle manuelle (the art of hand-made lacemaking) by simply watching demonstrations, which the lacemakers put on themselves.
Children can register for classes at the museum’s workshop—permitted they’re of an appropriate age—during school breaks, while teens can participate in other activities, like escape games. For more information, one should visit the museum’s web-site : chantilly-dentelle.
The museum offers a closer look at the history of both lacemaking in general and that of Chantilly by showing the various steps of manual lacemaking (spindling and other traditional techniques). There, one will also find beautiful contemporary laceworks.
A summary of what I learned about the history of lacemaking:
The indispensable role of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, ministre des finances under Louis XIV, who sought to limit France’s lace importation by regulating the wearing of foreign lace and by founding, in 1665, les manufactures royales de dentelle in France.
He went as far as to send ambassadors to Venice and Flanders to recruit expert lacemakers. Thus, he was instrumental in establishing the French lacemaking tradition.
In Chantilly, Anne de Bavière (Anne Henriette of Bavaria) founded a school in 1693 comprised of a community of 22 lace making apprentices, who worked under the saintly patronage of Saint-Anne, patron saint of lace makers (among other things).
A summary of what I learned about lacemaking methods :
At a time, merchants played a key role in providing lacemakers certain materials that permitted them to work from home, which, in French are called carreaux (photo), but lack a single word in English. Nevertheless, in Chantilly, merchants began to settle, thus bringing with them essential materials with which the lacemakers did their work.
These merchants worked exclusively with certain lacemakers, and requested certain patterns or designs; occasionally, if a laceworker sold his work elsewhere, tensions could flare between the merchants and artisans.
Merchants also worked with patrons, who produced sketches. After sketching the design, holes were punched, so that the lace makers could press their pins within the holes and begin their work.
Young ladies used to deliver the designs directly to the lacemakers; next, the pieces were assembled by la raccrocheuse (a hanger), who was usually the merchant’s wife.
The particularities of Lace from Chantilly
Manufactured in Chantilly, as elsewhere in France, is a lace called blonde lace, whose name originates from its natural silk color and floral patterns.
However, the lace from Chantilly is notable for its black color and spotted, netted pattern.
Unfortunately, intense competition and mechanization contributed to the decline of the manual lace industry by the second half of the 19th century, but the lacemaking tradition remained in Chantilly until the outbreak of the Great War.
The Isabelle Léourier exposition is a must see !
The Isabelle Léourier exposition will be in Chantilly until September 9th, at the « Musée de la dentelle de Chantilly ». As one can imagine, Léourier’s headdresses, like the one pictured above, find their natural home at the Prix de Diane (sometimes called the French Oak in English)
A highly fashionable enterprise…
Stylist and milliner (maker of woman’s hats), Isabelle Léourier creates headdresses and jewelry for the largest Haute Couture enterprises, such as Lacroix, Jean Louis Scherrer and others.
One can easily see the quality of Léourier’s pieces at the exposition. Her work is precise and extremely well finished, look at the craftsmanship of the below pictured headdress, with its beautiful golden inlays.
An artist to discover…
In her exposition, Léourier offers us a fine body of artistic work: take, for example, this body jewelry, which is night themed.
From head ornaments to wall ornaments…
To see more of Léourier’s work, visit her web-site (www.isabelle-leourier.com), or follow her on Instagram.
And, above all, if you pass by Chantilly, don’t hesitate to visit « the Musée de la dentelle à Chantilly ».