VENICE was well known for its needle laces by the mid-17th century. With the development of Baroque designs in the latter half of the 17th century — incorporating exotic flowers and leaves with branching, curving stems — Venetian needle lace became the most expensive, prestigious and sought-after fashion lace in Europe.
The boldly patterned, three-dimensional lace, now known as Gros Point, often said to look like carved ivory, retained its popularity to the end of the century despite changes in fashionable dress. It continued to be made into the 18th century for furnishing and church use. The motifs (solid areas) of the flowing Baroque designs were worked in twisted buttonhole stitch and could be decorated with patterns of blocks or lines of holes. In addition, the edges of the motifs were often highly padded with shaped bundles of threads covered with buttonhole stitches, and further decorated with a variety of picots. The motifs were sometimes linked with short, irregularly placed buttonholed bars, but these were often absent and the motifs were simply joined where they touched.
The heavy gros point lace was not appropriate for all uses and other laces with similar but lighter designs and more decoration were also made — Rose Point (rose meaning raised) and the delicate Point de Neige, where the design was almost hidden under frills of picoted rings. The buttonholed bars linking the motifs were often elaborately decorated in these medium-weight laces. Point Plat, a flat needle lace without padded edges, was also made during the last quarter of the century, but was never as popular.
By the beginning of the 18th century the Venetian lace industry had declined and never really recovered. It is probable that some lace was still made, but it was not until 1872 when a lace school was established on Burano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon, that there was any sort of revival. However, the style of lace made was based on old designs which were either copied exactly or with variations to suit 19th century taste and fashion. This fitted well with the contemporary revival of interest in old laces, and the Burano industry thrived until the early 20th century.
During the late 19th century Venetian Gros Point lace became very popular — not only were copies made in needle lace but also in crochet and by machine. Old laces were taken apart and re-modelled to suit current fashions, and flat Venetian needle laces even had padded edges added to give them the fashionable heavy look.