2020: the year of Czech lace?

Photo: Jana Házová / Czech Radio

The region of Eastern Bohemia has for centuries been celebrated for its fine textiles and traditional lacework. Last week, the Ministry of Culture added a specific type of Czech lace to the intangible cultural heritage list, a step towards such recognition by UNESCO. Meanwhile, an exquisite example of lacework – a lady’s cape comprised of 21 metres of lace – has just been restored ahead of the 750th anniversary of the town in which it was discovered.

Photo: Jana Házová / Czech Radio

Deep in the depository of the city museum of Dvůr Králové nad Labem, in a box lined with de-acidified paper, is a festive garment that undoubtedly once belonged to a 19th century lady of means.

She likely wore it to fancy dress balls or perhaps the opera in the autumn and winter season, says curator Lenka Stehnová, who removed the cloak from its box to give Czech Radio an exclusive preview.

“So, let’s unwrap this ‘pelerine’ from the acid-free paper. It’s a woman’s cloak, from the 1870s or 1880s. It’s made of atlas fabric and quite a rare example of this fashion – very few have survived in Czech museums.

“This particular piece probably comes from a local tailor’s workshop. It has short sleeves heavily decorated with lace, which is also around the bodice and the skirt of the cloak.”

Photo: Jana Házová / Czech Radio
“The restorer had a lot of work with this cloak! She had to fix a total of over 21 meters of lace, which was quite torn and partly destroyed. Now, as you can see, it’s like new again.”

The museum of Dvůr Králové nad Labem plans to put the beautifully restored lacework garment on display to mark the 750th anniversary of the first written mention of the city, this coming autumn.

While the provenance of the 19th century cloak has not been definitively established, it dates from the time when about a dozen recently arrived Jewish families began building up the local textile industry.

The greater area has been known for its exquisite lace production already since the 17th century. Today, the most famous Czech type of lace stems from a school established in the nearby town of Vamberk by a Flemish-born baroness named Magdalena Grambo.

In fact, it is Vamberk bobbin lace that the Czech Republic hopes to have included on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list – along with inscribed elements such as puppetry, falconry, Shrovetide processions, the Ride of the Kings, and the Slovácký verbuňk dance.