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At the beginning of last century two sisters of
Sansepolcro, Adele e Ginna Marcelli, created a typical bobbin
locally called “pin lace” (trina a spilli).
They had learnt the technique from Mrs. Amelia
Gelli Pagliai (1858-1942), who in her turn had learned it in jail, from a
Once skilful in bobbin lace, they started
studying other Italian and foreign laces, often dismantling and
reconstructing them to learn the successive steps of making them. Little
by little, they thought it was time to create a new type of lace, with its
own characteristics: Sansepolcro pillow lace was born.
Adele e Ginna received a significant help from
their father who devised and made a specific mobile support for
Sansepolcro pillow lace.
In 1900 they started their school: “Adele and
Ginna Marcelli Bobbin Lace School”. At the beginning, the school was
attended mainly by young girls of respectful family; then, lace makers and
embroiderers attending classes became more than one hundred, and there
were more than one thousand homeworkers scattered around the High Tiber
Domenico Petri, Ginna’s husband, took care of
the drawings, inspired from traditional decorative patterns peculiar to
the district, such as: vase, lock, puppet lace (“Trine a vasi, a
ciocche, a burattini”); the forest (“la foresta”); the tiny abacus
Sansepolcro works became soon well known,
successful and appreciated all over Europe and even in America: when Ginna
Marcelli became partner of Giovanna Melardi, the American market sprang up
its doors to the production of the lace school. Prestigious international
exhibition won several gold medals and testimonials.
After the death of Adele Marcelli, in 1912, the
school and workshop activity was carried on by Ginna and her husband. Many
excellent lace workers and teachers came out from Marcelli lace school,
and some of them started new schools in Sansepolcro and its neighbourhood.
Let's remember their names: Agnese Tamburini, Leda Fatti, Margherita
Bonanni, Zaira Baragli, Assunta Benci.
The outbreak of the
Second World War brought the closure of foreign markets, and the
handicraft production of lace and embroidery that had made Sansepolcro so
renewed became stagnant.
At the end of war, the school reopened, but with
reduced personnel. After the death of Domenico Petri in 1948, Ginna
carried on the school activity on her own.
In 1955 the Art State Institute of Sansepolcro
established a new lace class. Ginna Marcelli had the task of organising
the teaching of bobbin lace . After a few years a weaving class replaced
the lace one.
Ginna Marcelli died in 1977, 95 years old.
In the same year a new lace school was set out,
directed by Pia Berghi, a former pupil of Marcelli school. The
distinguished tradition of Sansepolcro lace was thus carried on for the
In 1983 Sansepolcro Cultural
Centre, a free
association of citizen founded in 1979 with the aim of recovering and
developing local artistic production, organised the first bobbin lace
exhibition. The great success of the show arose the interest for an almost
forgotten art. In 1984 a second lace exhibition took place and since then
lace exhibits became biennial. Italian and other European laces were shown.
After 1990 laces coming from all countries were brought to all successive
Lace Biennial is now part of lace history for its influence on the
spreading of lacemaking in Italy and in Europe, in an age later called
In 1994 the Art State Institute of Sansepolcro,
on the occasion of its participation to the Biennial exhibition, started a
study on the interest of contemporary fashion in restoring ancient fabrics
and lace inserts, re-elaborated from original items kept in its historic
In 1996 the Association “Lace in the town of
Piero” was founded. Its purpose was to re-evaluate and spread the art of
bobbin lace, organising classes of lace and embroidery.
In the same year the municipality of Sansepolcro
set up a permanent exhibition called “Lace Space”, where original
laces and authentic documents of Adele and Ginna Marcelli’s school are
with lace inserts
in Art State Institute G.Giovagnoli, Sansepolcro.