In 1476, as the Queen of Hungary and wife of Matthias Corvinus was expected in Ferrara, her sister Eleonora D’Aragona, Duchess of Ferrara and wife of Ercole I, summoned 18 young lacemakers and urged them to make, as quickly as possible, bobbin lacework made of gold and crimson silk. These valuable items were meant to adorn the ornaments and linens of the Queen’s room. This is the first evidence of lacemaking in Emilia Romagna. Lacework and knitting were popular in much of the region, and were used mostly for folk costumes and brides’ dowries. Indeed, local women used to wear traditional costumes up to the early 20th century. The necklines on these costumes were richly decorated with lace, a particularly complex style that recalled Flemish lace. The skills that local lacemakers acquired gave rise to veritable masterpieces. Reticella lace was then revived in the early 20th century thanks to the “Aemilia Ars” association, whose lace and embroidery section became a veritable industry thanks to the efforts of Countess Lina Bianconcini Cavazza. As early as 1899 the Countess had begun to teach punto antico and reticello to a few destitute girls. By the early 20th century, the making of lace to decorate garments and linens involved dozens of women from the city and its surroundings, most of whom worked from home. In most cases, it took several lacemakers – each working according to her specialization - to make a single lace item. Finished items were assembled subsequently. During World War I, these skilled lacemakers were temporarily converted into seamstresses to make military uniforms. The women, who had remained alone as their husbands were sent to the frontlines, could thus earn a little income. The “Aemilia Ars” collection of drawings and lace and embroidery samples was purchased by the Municipality of Bologna and is now held at the Davia-Bargellini Museum.
In 1882, Count Luigi Alberto Gandini donated to the Modena Civic Museum a collection of textile fragments comprising 2000 Italian and European items from the 11th to the 19th centuries. The Museum now houses the so-called “Gandini hall” dedicated to textiles, featuring about 900 textile fragments (of which 300 are made of linen or metal lace) and several garments from the second half of the 18th century, which were purchased recently. The remaining material is being catalogued and restored.