Antique Lace Portraits

antique lace portraits 2

Of all my textile treasures, these lace portraits are among my very favorites.  To be perfectly honest, I know absolutely nothing about how they were created. Do you know?  I would really appreciate any information you could share.


antique lace portraits FI


The background/field surrounding the busts appears to be a sort of tatting or crochet.   The fill pattern in parts of  each figure remind me of Battenburg techniques.  But for all I know, there may be an obscure, obsolete needleart for creating such stitched images.  I can say with certainty that they were made by hand.


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The placement of the intricate stitch patterns create a portrait so clear that you might recognize this regal personage or his ancestors if you had bumped into them at the latest royal wedding.

It seems likely that they represent some very important historical figures.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of English history.  From what I’ve read and the portraits I have seen, the textile figures appear to be from the Tudor era.  I think it’s okay to speculate so I think they could be Queen Mary (1516-58) and her Spanish husband, Phillip II.


Mary and her husband Felipe of Spain Oil on canvas English School, 17th century National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

He was said to be very handsome and, to me, he looks the part of a dandy, Latin lover.  Note: If anyone thinks this guy is handsome, you should see my husband!

The most complimentary description of Queen Mary said she was clean and plain.  This prim lady just seems grim, but if she knew what Phillip was doing with the ladies at court, Mary had good reason to look grumpy.


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Is there a royal rule against smiling?

These portraits hang in the little sitting room that is part of a guest suite in our circa 1926 home.

Almost 20 years ago, they were purchased at an estate sale, pinned to a sheet of cardboard.  If any interest is expressed, I’ll write a post about that once-in-a-lifetime textile shopping spree.   And I did–here is the link.  Occasionally, I still dream about it!

When I brought Phillip/Felipe and Mary home, I intended to get them framed, but one thing and then another got in the way.  About 5 years later, my darling, thoughtful daughter teamed up with her father to get the portraits framed for my birthday.  Needless to say, I was just thrilled to be able to hang them and gaze daily at the exquisitely portrayed royal couple.

Had I known this birthday gift plan was in the offing, I would have blocked the lace to their intended shape.  But the poor framer was very intimidated by their apparent age,  uniqueness, and perceived fragility.  So he just placed them on the acid-free stock as best he could.

I hope spring is creeping into your lives and gardens.  This past week we had all three grandchildren for some time and their youth reminds me of the beautiful spring we are enjoying.

Now I am busy smocking Laurel’s Easter dress.  But my Quattro is calling me to come play!  What are you stitching?

This is my post for Faded Charm’s White Wednesday.  There are beautiful things there.  Check it out!

13 responses to “Antique Lace Portraits

  1. Very nice pieces. I can see why they are your favorites.

  2. I am only guessing, but could I suggest cutwork? I have some old placemats (also made by hand) where the cutwork is so fancy that almost all the fabric is cut away in sections, just leaving the bars.

    They are gorgeous and I would love to hear about your shopping expedition to get them- though it might make me drool!

  3. They are exquisite, do not know what kind of lace they are though, maybe more like embroidery?

  4. I love them, but I can offer no knowledge of how they were made. Did you find them in that woman’s attic? The one that didn’t sew? I would love to find a tag sale like that!
    I cannot believe that I mowed our yard today. This is the earliest I have ever done that! We really didn’t have any winter and spring has come so early….. not that I’m griping! But the thoughts of how hot this summer may be scares me a little. This may be the summer where I just hibernate in my sewing room under the AC.

  5. These were actually purchased from the leftovers from an estate sale in New England. They must have been Rockefellers or Rothschilds because the leftovers included two banquet sized embroidered tablecloths (soft coral linen with 12″ matching coral organdy borders embroidered with dogwood blossoms) with 12 matching napkins for each cloth! Who needs two of those? Suzanne bought one and I bought the other. They were very showy at her son’s rehearsal dinner! And there was soooooo much more. I spent every cent I could spare but wish now I had asked the bank for a loan! As for weather, it’s really warm here, too, but it alternates with cool days (55 degrees) and nights (as low as 42). I’m already wondering if I will keep hanging clothes on the line when the heat hits. How did Southern ladies manage to get anything done before AC? Too bad about the early mowing–you could have been sewing!

  6. I have been to a LOT of estate sales and never have seen anything like those. Wonderful find!

  7. I can see why you treasure these. They are beautiful and so very unusual. How thoughtful of your daugther to have them framed for you – a very meaningful gesture.

  8. Penny Pintuck

    These are GORGEOUS! I was wanting to reach through my computer screen and grab them! We have the same taste for sure. Noticed a peek at that beautiful chair below them too! Wonderful find — lucky you!!!!

  9. Kris Curtis

    Janice: The portraits are lovely! The technique is called needle lace – and there are many, many variations of it. If you do a Google search you’ll find all sorts of information and pictures, even some “how-to’s”.

  10. Thank you, Kris!! Have you ever done this? I’ll google it right away.

  11. Absolutely stunning!

  12. Janice, they are needle lace, as in made with a threaded needle and buttonhole stitch. I would hazard to guess there was a paper drawing/outline that was underneath much like bobbin lacers following a pricking/pattern. VERY time intensive. In fact, bobbin lace was developed because it was faster than needle lace and therefore less expensive. In inventories it was referred to as “real lace” until bobbin lace basically took over the lace market.


  13. Thanks so much, Kris and Nena for the identifying information. I googled needle lace and found amazing things. But there was nothing I would trade for my portraits in lace.

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