Threads of Power: Lace from the Textilmuseum St. Gallen

This seminar is offered as part of BGC’s mission to integrate teaching and exhibitions. Threads of Power: Lace from the Textilmuseum (September 17, 2022-January 1, 2023), co-curated by Prof. Michele Majer, Emma Cormack, Associate Curator, and Ilona Kos, Curator at the Textilmuseum, will bring together approximately 175 examples of lace from the extensive collection at the Textilmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland, and will be the first large-scale American installation in 10 years to trace the development of lace from its early sixteenth-century origins to the present. The organization of the seminar will follow the main themes of the exhibition including the introduction of early needle and bobbin laces around 1600 and their centers of production (primarily Italy and Flanders); lace as a luxury commodity that became a symbol of power and status for the clergy and men and women of the aristocracy for whom it was initially intended and produced (here, we look at the royal courts of Hapsburg Spain and Bourbon France, sumptuary legislation, the establishment of the French lace industry under Louis XIV that rivaled those of Italy and Flanders, and the use of lace in the Spanish colonies); the decline of the industry following the French Revolution, the rise of machine-made lace in the nineteenth century, and the resurgence of this textile as a status symbol for affluent women; lace collectors and collecting in the late-nineteenth century and lace revivals in Britain, Continental Europe, and among Italian immigrants in New York City; and the importance of St. Gallen as a center of machine production from the turn of the twentieth century to the present and its recent inventive approaches that shape today’s industry. Throughout, we will consider the dynamics of power, exploitation, class, and gender among those who made, sold, and wore this costly textile. Co-curator Emma Cormack will be a regular participant and Prof. Majer will invite authors contributing to the catalogue to present on their respective chapters. If NYC institutions are open for appointments, we will schedule visits to the Ratti Center/MMA and the Cooper-Hewitt to view objects from their lace collections. 3 credits