Laces from the collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague


From 24. 06. 2004 to 22. 07. 2004

The exhibition runs from 24 June until 22 July 2004 in the Robert Guttmann Gallery. Open daily 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., except Saturdays and Jewish holidays

All the known textile techniques and materials are represented in the diverse textile collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague. The Museum's depositories also store a number of items whose ornamentation involves the use of bobbin lace in various forms. These synagogue and ceremonial textiles, garments and accessories, made over the course of almost four centuries, have not been presented to the public and specialists until this year. 

On the occasion of the eleventh World Lace Congress, organised by OIDFA in Prague, the Jewish Museum prepared an exhibition to mark the completion of a several-year research project into its collection of bobbin laces, which was supported financially by the Czech Ministry of Culture.

The Museum's textile collection contains mostly synagogue textiles: curtains, Torah mantles and valances comprise almost half of the items on display here. Bobbin laces appear on textiles either in the form of yard laces that divide up and border the items, or as large compositions that connect bobbin lace motifs with diverse passement. The first – the most numerous group – comprises the oldest examples of simply shaped lace with expressive scallops (reti-cella). These are represented here by pieces dating from 1606 and 1652, bands of pressed, geometric stylised leadwork from the second half of the 17th century, and simple yard metal laces with expressive waves and edges decorated with scallops, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. The second group, which is much more diverse in terms of the materials used (combination of galloons, braid, bobbin lace elements and appliqué) is represented here mainly by a monumental synagogue curtain composition, dating from 1708. Var-iants of this special technique are represented by other exhibited textiles, such as a mantle, dating from 1705, and 19th century valances.

Ceremonial textiles and garments are also on display at this exhibition. Bridal head coverings, used mainly by southern Moravian Jewish communities during the bridal head-covering ceremony (bedeken), constitute a special group in the collections of the Jewish Museum. The edges of these coverings are decorated with examples of previously unpublished metal bobbin laces which have intricately stylised, mostly plant motifs. All the exhibits in this group date from the 19th century. Ladies’ garments are represented by a notable group of portraits from the Museum’s art collection, as well as by several bodices.

This exhibition also includes a presentation of items made with the little known technique of shpanyer arbet (Yiddish). Some researchers regard this as the only specifically Jewish textile technique. Based on the intertwining of metal lamellae with inner bundles of cotton or linen fibres that are fixed with a Leonine thread, this technique was developed in Jewish communities in Ukraine and Poland in the 19th century. In terms of motifs, however, it follows on from the intricate plant ornamentation of bobbin laces; rare examples combining both techniques appear-ed in the second half of the 19th century. Long decorative bands for a man’s prayer shawl (Heb. atarah) have been selected for this exhibition as examples of items made with the shpanyer arbet technique The Jewish Museum’s collection of textiles decorated with bobbin lace are an exceptionally precious set, the importance of which consists mainly in the uniquely preserved, comprehensive information available concerning the donors and the time and place the items were made. On the basis of a long-term research project into the textile collection, it has been possible to mark out certain turning points, particularly in the production of yard metal bobbin laces, and to accurately date the occurrence of certain lace-making and passement techniques. We are glad to have this opportunity to show you the results of this research.

The research project into bobbin lace from the collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague was financially supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.

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