Punto Antico, Reticello and Aemilia Ars

Reticello means ‘little net’ in Italian and is a form of embroidery that’s been recorded since the late Middle Ages. It’s created by drawing threads from a fabric and then refilling the spaces with stitched motifs in geometric designs.

Here’s an example from a friend’s home in Italy…

…and a detail:

Historically it’s regarded as the transition point between embroidery and needlelace.

As the Reticello patterns and motifs became more complex more and more threads had to be withdrawn and the inserts became flimsier. As a result the lace makers created the Punto in Aria technique which is regarded as the first true needlelace.

Punto in Aria means ‘stitch in the air’ and refers to the fact that the lace is not created on fabric – it’s done on fixed threads on a temporary support usually parchment or a special type of paper.

Reticello and Punto in Aria had their heyday in the 17th century and here are two portraits of the time that show the ornate collars and cuffs in these techniques:

Portrait of a Lady by Scipione Pulzone at the Walters Art Museum

Lady Dorothy Cary by William Larkin at Kenwood House, Suffolk Collection, London

Aemilia Ars

They went out of fashion at the end of the 17th century and were revived at the beginning of the last century by the Aemilia Ars Society in Bologna. This group is often compared to the Arts and Crafts Movement in England and it had some success in reviving needlelace traditions.

The term Aemilia Ars is used today torefer to the needlelace style that evolved from Punto in Aria.

Bruna Gubbini

Bruna Gubbini has written a number of books on Punto Antico which include a text in English as well as Italian and French.

The Guild’s library has five of these and they are full of wonderful designs and very clear instructions on how to do the stitches and needlelace.

She is also a leading member of the Associazone Il Punto Antico from San Giovanni in Persiceto and she was teaching at Italia Invita but better still…….

….the linen manufacturers Fratelli Graziano had commissioned her to stitch two tablecloths to display on their stall. You can see them in those giant hoops above.

They were both jawdroppingly beautiful with a flawless technique and were widely admired.

One was in Punto Antico:

and again closer up:

The other was in satin stitch and shadow work which I’d also like to share with you:

This grey smokey colour tone is called sfumato in Italian and is very effective and elegant in this tablecloth:

And Now the Showstopper!

As if Bruna Gubbini’s tablecloths weren’t spectacular enough the Associazione Il Punto Antico pulled out all stops with this stunning work in Punto Antico with a decorative tree in Aemilia Ars needlelace:

and another small insert:


I bought a needlebook in the Punto Antico style with an Aemelia Ars insert from the Associazione Il Punto Antico stand at Italia Invita and here are some photos:

And some more detail:

It’s finished around the edges with four sided stitch:

More Info

If you’re looking for more information on Punto Antico, Reticello or Aemilia Ars then head over to Jeanine Robertson’s blog Italian NeedleworkIf you scroll down the left hand side of her blog you’ll find a comprehensive list of topics covered.


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