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Sansepolcro Lace


Back to History

At the beginning of last century two sisters of Sansepolcro, Adele e Ginna Marcelli, created a typical bobbin lace, 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 Flamish nun.

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 Valley.

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 (“l’abachino”).

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 future generations.

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 exhibitions.

The International 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 “lace Renaissance”.

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 archives.

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 kept.



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"Warriors" tablecloth: the lace reproduces a Romanic decoration now kept in Sansepolcro Municipal Museum. Masterpiece of Marcelli’s school, it is the symbol of Sansepolcro traditional lace. It has been shown to the public in several occasions.



“The Deers”, doily.
Typical drawing of Sansepolcro traditional lace.

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“Men” (1965).  Panel. Art State Institute G.Giovagnoli, Sansepolcro.


Dress with lace inserts

(Sansepolcro modern lace)

 Created in Art State Institute G.Giovagnoli, Sansepolcro.

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