Alençon Lace

Alençon lace or point d'Alençon is a needle lace that originated in Alençon, France. It is sometimes called the "Queen of lace." Lace making began in Alençon during the 16th century and the local industry was rapidly expanded during the reign of Louis XIV by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who established a Royal Workshop in the town to produce lace in the Venetian style in 1665. The purpose of establishing this workshop was to reduce the French court's dependence on expensive foreign imports. The local lacemakers soon modified the Venetian technique and Alençon emerged as a unique style around 1675.

Though the demand for lace went into sharp decline following the French Revolution, it recovered some of its popularity during the Second French Empire before entering terminal decline at the end of the 19th century with changes in fashion and the development of cheaper, machine-made lace.

Lace making survived on a small scale and the technique was preserved by Carmelite nuns in Alençon. In 1976 a National Lace Workshop was established in the town to ensure that this lace-making technique survives. There is a permanent exhibition of lace and a display showing how it is made in the Musée des Beaux Arts et de la Dentelle, located in the town centre and adjoining the Workshop. The workshops themselves are open to the public only on certain days of the year.

UNESCO recognised the unusual craftsmanship of this lace and added it to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in November 2010.

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