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Gold and silver lace of the 17th - early 20th century

Gold and silver lace, along with pearl and golden-thread embroidery, embroidery and weaving,  was  widely used in  decoration of secular  and  church objects   for  several centuries.  The  collection of gold and silver lace in the  Sergiev Posad Museum-Reserve  contains  about 150 items. It includes samples of measured  lace and  church objects decorated with  lace  of  gold  and silver thread alongside  with  golden thread and pearl embroidery.  Some  part  of the collection contains  donations to the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery.

Gold  and  silver lace first appeared in Russia in the second half of the 16th  century. This kind of applied  and  decorative  art came  from Western Europe. Throughout the 17th  and the first half of the 18th  century  lace was brought to Russia  in  numerous  finished  products  and  in abundance of  high quality gold and   silver  threads, which were used  in embroidery  and lace-making.    Love  for  gold and silver lace, and its prevalence, especially in the 17th  century Russia,  was primarily due to  its decorativeness  that  was  in perfect harmony with  large-patterned  heavy fabrics,  with loose-fitting clothes and with  magnificent   pearl and  golden  thread  embroidery that  reached a peak in the  17th  century. Gold and silver lace was used  for  reach  decoration of  the  tsar, boyar and  princely   clothes, noble dresses and  church  vestments,  various everyday  secular and church  objects. In the 18th century, it penetrated  actively  into  folk life.

The Inventories of the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery of the 17th – early 20th century prove that gold and silver  lace was widely used in church life. Thus, the earliest surviving Inventory of 1641 enumerates 15 works with lace, including the sacristy  items:  “four palls of red smooth velvet with crosses embroidered in a single thread of Kaffa pearls, outlined with bullion. The edges are trimmed with golden lace. Donation of Tsar and Grand Prince Boris Feodorovich of all Russia”.  The Inventory of 1735 records about 30 items with lace, and the Inventory of 1756 mentions  over 50.  

    The centers of lace-making could be boyar and princely workshops, as well as nunneries, where talented needlewomen worked. The earliest specimens of gold and silver lace in the Museum collection   date back to the second half of the 17th century. The favorite motifs in the 17th century gold and silver lace were carnation and tulip, typical of all Russian and West-European ornamental art at that time. These motifs were most characteristic of Flemish lace. The samples of lace with carnation and tulip patterns present one of the main groups of ornaments in the Museum collection.

The Museum presents the most comprehensive collection the specimens of the 18th century lace. Unfortunately, we do not have any concrete information about the centers of lace-making at that time. We can only  presume that lace was still made in the tsar workshops, nunneries and merchant families

In the 18th century, when European dress spread, lace gradually disappeared from  noble life, and in the second half of the 18th century it was completely replaced by  lace of thing thread  that was very fashionable in Europe. Yet, at the same time, gold and silver lace was widely used in church objects. In the 18th century,  they used the  carnation and tulip motifs, as, for example, in the phelonion of crimson brocade with large silvery pattern. At the beginning of the 18th century, various compositions of Russian agramant developed. The floral and geometrical ornaments were most characteristic of agramant in the first half of the 18th century.   Such ornamental elements as “curved tape”,  festoons,  “filet”, fan-shaped motifs further developed in the 18th – 19th century  thread lace

The floral and geometric ornaments of the second half of the 18th century are complicated, but strictly rhythmic and clearly composed. In the mid-18th century, lace was supplemented with  flattened and colored (blue, red, green)  wire, which greatly increased its decorative effect.This technique was characteristic only of Russian metal lace-making illustrating its tendency for   illumination. There appeared the so-called filet lace. One of the specimens is the vexillum of silver and golden filet with Metropolitan Platon’s monogram. The vexillum is trimmed with silvery fringe. 

The 18th century lace of West-European origin, called “point d’Espagne” in Russia, presents a special group in the Museum collection. It was very expensive. So only privileged society, where it was very popular, could afford it. “Point d’Espagne” is guipure of very thing golden and silver braid, or spun thread in coupling technique. As a rule, it was used in female dresses and hats, and in male camisoles. 

The Museum exhibits  with “Point d’Espagne” are entirely church articles. It decorates the icon-cloth of red satin with the pearl Golgotha cross and ornamental boarder, donated to the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery in 1638 in memory of the  clerk in the Boyars' Council I.T. Gramotin. Lace, probably attached in the first quarter of the 18th century, did not destroy the compositional integrity of the icon-cloth.  Braid lace  frames the purificator of  pink satin, originated in Europe

The chasubles and surplices with French “Point d’Espagne” were preserved in the archimandrite sacristy of the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery in the mid-18th century. There was also kept the surviving brocade epigonation, decorated with the same type of lace with patterns of thin fibrous stems with outgoing tetrapetalous flowers..

In the 18th century, gold and silver lace penetrated into folk life. There are two works of folk art with golden lace of the late  18th – early 19th century. In 1842, general Glazov’s wife donated to the Trinity-St.Sergius Monastery an aer and two purificators of golden filet  lined with  lilac silk.  The items of filet are mainly referred to the  19th century, among them  the complete sets of  church objects are not rare. 

In the 19th century,  multi-colored chenille embroidery in cross and satin stitches was  very popular. These techniques were often combined with gold and silver filet.  Mother Superior  Maria Tuchkova  of  the Savior   Nunnery  in  Borodino Field  donated to the  Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery  an aer and two purificators  of  golden filet with large quadrangular holes.  They are decorated with a floral pattern embroidered in bright  red, green and blue  chenille

In the 18th – 19th century, white silk-lace (blond-lace) was very popular in West Europe and in Russia. Its main peculiarity was a contrast between a very thing tulle background and massive ornament. Interlaced golden and silver thread made it exceptionally refined. Two samples in the Museum collection could presumably date back to the mid-19th century. One of them is the edge of the velvet phelonion of the early 20th century, originating from the Optina Pustyn.

We should also consider gold and silver lace-making  in the 19th – early 20th century,  i. e. in the last period in the development of this art. It  was used only in church and peasant life. In the 19th  - early 20th century, metal lace was  traditionally made in nunneries.

The icon-cloth and purificator of  grey silk with a  pattern of  roses and silver lace, donated by the Khotkovo Mother Superior Sergia, date back to the late 19th – early 20th century. The icon-cloth and  purificator  of  silvery  glacet with multi-colored silk embroidery and narrow golden edge with festoons passed to the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery in 1903.