With the decadence surrounding Venice throughout its history, fine goods have become an important part of Venetian culture, especially in their craftsmanship. One such luxury commodity is the exquisite and complex art form of Burano Lace. This lace, too, has a rich history. The most famous legend explaining the tradition of lace-making on the island of Burano comes from a tale of an ancient fisherman engaged to his beloved having to set sail just before their wedding day. While at sea, he was stopped by a siren attempting to enchant and seduce him with her song. However, the fisherman was not swayed and stayed true to his fiancée. This so impressed the siren that she decided to give him a gift and flicked her tail against his boat, causing an intricate web of sea foam to form. Upon his return home, he gifted the foam to his soon-to-be-wife so she could use it as her veil, which inspired the women of Burano to re-create the pattern in thread, a pattern now lovingly referred to as “mermaid’s tail”(Burano Island Official Website).
While this sweet story is far-fetched, it captures the charm of Burano quite appropriately. The bright houses marking the island were intended for the fisherman to be able to easily spot their way home after a long day at sea, and the tradition of lace making is more convincingly a skill the wives picked up while they waited for their husbands to return, stemming from long hours mending fishing nets (Zwack 1).
Lace making grew in popularity around the 15th century at the height of the renaissance. The intricate lace was incredibly time consuming to produce, requiring between five to ten women, each responsible for a different stitch and step (Zwack 2), and therefore an extreme luxury and status symbol. Lace was donned by noblemen, priests, and the like in all sorts of ways like elaborate collars and even carnivale masks. The Doge’s wife was a patron for the art form, with its popularity reaching even to the coronation of Richard III where Queen Anne wore a Burano lace mantle, and Catherine de’ Medici commissioning lace linens (Zwack 1). However, the popularity of the lace eventually faded, although it still has a place on the island by being passed down through the generations and kept alive through projects like the Museo Merletto (lace museum), which was built in the old lace school that ran from 1872 to 1970 (Burano Island).
Because the lace is so difficult and lengthy to produce, it has become a victim of counterfeiting and false advertising with a lot of the lace being machine made and/or shipped in from china. Handmade lace often has quirks or slight “imperfections” and machine made lace will look as such. To avoid purchasing an imitation, recommedations include the “store and atelier of Martina Vidal in the Palazzo dei Pittori in Burano (its address is Sotoportego dei Preti 3600/A)”(Glass of Venice) as well as the Dalla Lidia (Lace Gallery) at Via Baldassarre Galuppi, 215, 30142 Venezia VE, Italy (Made by Mermaids).
“Burano Lace.” Burano Island – Official Website, www.isoladiburano.it/en/lace.html.
“Fabric for a King Made by Mermaids: Burano Lace.” The Official Globe Trekker Website, www.pilotguides.com/articles/fabric-for-a-king-made-by-mermaids-burano-lace/.
“The Best Gifts To Bring Home From Venice.” Murano Glass, www.glassofvenice.com/blog/2016/10/the-best-gifts-to-bring-home-from-venice/.
Zwack, Anne Marshall. “SHOPPER’S WORLD; Splendor of a Fading Venetian Art.” New York Times, search-proquest-com.ezproxy.callutheran.edu/docview/426365686/fulltext/24EAA8F722044F40PQ/1?accountid=9839.
Zwack, Anne Marshall. “Burano’s Legacy: Artistry in Lace.” New York Times, 16 Aug. 1987, p. 12, search-proquest-com.ezproxy.callutheran.edu/docview/110654953/pageviewPDF/824D141B352C4A3BPQ/1?accountid=9839.