New England
Lace Group

IOLI Lace Lectures

  • February 21, 2021
  • 3:30 PM
  • Zoom meeting

Empress Maria Theresa's Lace Dress: A Historical Puzzle

Empress Maria Theresa of Austria owned a spectacular lace dress, known to lace lovers everywhere through its appearance on the cover of Santina Levey's Lace: A History. The painting used for this cover image, by Martin van Meytens, suggests a lost era in which handmade lace was a symbol of elite luxury, elegance and wealth, as well as of course great beauty. Yet Maria Theresa's lace dress was far from a typical garment: it was a highly unusual one made with a specific set of socio-historical conditions.

This presentation explores the history of this dress, tracing what we know of its construction, design and symbolic significance, while also discussing possible traces we may have of it today.

Michael Yonan is Professor of Art History and inaugural Alan Templeton Endowed Chair of European Art, 1600-1830 at the University of California, Davis. His areas of research are eighteenth-century art, particularly in Central and Northern Europe, the decorative arts, material culture studies, and art historical historiography and methodology. He is the author of Empress Maria Theresa and the Politics of Hapsburg Imperial Art (Penn State, 2011), Messerschmidt's Character Heads: Maddening Sculpture and the Writing of Art History (Routledge, 2018) and is co-editor with Stacy Sloboda of Eighteenth-Century Art Worlds: Global and Local Geographies of Art (Bloomsbury, 2019). In Spring 2019 he was visiting guest professor at the Institute for Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University, Sweden.

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