THE Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle has lent some of its finest 17th and 18th century Flemish and English lace to an international exhibition in Belgium.

Twenty items from the museum's Blackborne Lace Collection will feature in the P.LACE.S – Looking through Antwerp Lace exhibition, which runs from today until January 2.

The exhibition highlights the important role Antwerp played in the production and trade of lace, with a trail that connects five different locations in the city.

Most of The Bowes Museum’s pieces are to be displayed in MoMu, the fashion museum, showing how lace was worn in the past and how today's innovative designers like Chanel, Prada and Louis Vuitton use new techniques to explore the conceptual boundaries of lace, experimenting with high-tech 3D printing and laser cutting.

More of the Museum’s Blackborne lace will be displayed at the Maidens' House, where orphaned girls used to learn sewing and lace-making.

Joanna Hashagen, the museum’s curator of fashion and textiles, said: “We’re very proud to be able to contribute to and be part of this, with loans from major museum collections in America, Europe and the UK, plus the top Fashion Houses, it will be an impressive show, the largest lace exhibition ever staged.

“One of our most important pieces from this world class collection is the man’s cloak band, of English needlelace c.1635 (which was shown next to the triple portrait of Charles I at Buckingham Palace in 2013) is also a star of the Antwerp show. We have lent the finest and rarest pieces of Flemish lace; the 16th century baby cap, the girl’s cap of 1640 and six pairs of 18th century lappets, plus five lengths of 17th century lace borders.”

Frieda Sorber, the researcher, and Wim Mertens, one of the curators of the exhibition, came to Britain and spent days in the Museum’s Glass Cube in August 2016, carefully going through the collection and choosing items for the exhibition. They had visited the exhibition Fine & Fashionable: Lace from The Blackborne Collection at The Bowes Museum in 2006 and attended an international lace conference held at the Museum in 2007.

Annabel Talbot, who documented the Blackborne Collection between 2009-13, funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, came back to the Museum last summer to prepare the loan and the photography for the catalogue, which is published in English.

The lace was cleaned and packaged for its temporary return to its homeland by the Museum’s specialist textile conservator Cecilia Oliver.


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