I'm always fascinated by the lives of the people behind needlework. Just as American schoolgirl samplers are appraised at a far higher value if the owner knows the history of the embroiderer, I think the techniques, designs, embroideries, etc. are more interesting if I know the story of how they were made and by whom.
One of the most frustrating things about amateur research is that many times I am unable to find out anything about a particular person. I often wish for lottery millions so I could travel to the various museums and libraries around the world and research for myself among the archives... who knows if I'd be any more successful?
I have never been to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London but you can bet that if I ever get the chance, I'll probably spend my entire vacation there. They have many Italian needlework-related things. One of them is a book of embroidery designs done in ink and watercolours by Lunardo Fero, Venice, October 16, 1559. Lunardo? I'm no expert on names but this is one I haven't come across before... could it be Leonardo? Either way I can turn up nothing doing internet searches on this guy.
The information I can find on this little book is that it "contains dozens of beautifully crafted embroidery patterns displaying an impressive range of floral and ornamental motifs, some inspired by classical forms, others by contemporary Middle-Eastern designs." It is dedicated to the "virtuous and noble" Elena Foscari. The Foscari coat of arms is on the last page "both as a mark of ownership and as a pattern to be applied to all kinds of household textiles".
"The vellum binding and the striped, decorative endpapers are eighteenth or nineteenth century. The title-page is fairly clean and suggests that the designs were originally bound in a volume even though the binding is not contemporary with the designs."
There are 26 entries for this book on the Victoria & Albert Museum website, but there are only four images. I kept very busy clicking on the different entries as there are different descriptions for each page even when there aren't any photos.
Searches for Elena Foscari turn up empty too. Foscari is an ancient Venetian name and Francesco Foscari became Doge of Venice in 1423. He's the only guy who turns up when I search the name.
If anyone has any other information please, please leave me a comment! I'd love to know what the rest of the book looks like... have you been to the V&A and seen it yourself? I wonder how many other embroidery pattern books like this there were?
These images were taken from At Home in Renaissance Italy by Marta Ajmar-Wollheim and Flora Dennis. This is an excellent book!