I received an intriguing email some weeks ago from Enza Termine of Sicily. You may remember her from a previous post on circular netting.
Enza had come across a web page by an SCA member who was investigating Mezza Mandolina, a more complex type of netting or Lacis evidenced in a portrait by Bronzino of Eleonora, wife of Cosimo I de' Medici and another portrait of Elizabeth I of England. Both portraits date to the mid-to-late sixteenth century.
This is a detail of the Bronzino portrait taken from Elisa Ricci's Old Italian Lace, 1913, the netting has been further embellished with embroidery:
Enza had also found this page with Mezza Mandolina tutorials by the same SCA member for different patterns that she had been able to figure out by experimentation.
Enza was curious about the name of the technique Mezza Mandolina. We found it mentioned by Elisa Ricci in her Old Italian Lace, 1913 (Antiche Trine Italiane. Trine ad ago - 1908):
"There is a variety of mesh-work very seldom found existing now, although several designs for its manufacture are to be seen in an old pattern-book, Isabella Parasole's Studio delle virtuose Donne published in 1597; the work was known as mezza mandolina, and is a net of irregular mesh, sometimes left plain, but more often embroidered with little leaves in matting-stitch which fill the square mesh and join it to the others so that the background can hardly be seen between the interwoven figures."
In the Ricci text is the above portrait of Eleonora which is preceded by a photo of a pattern page for Mezza Mandolina from a different text by Isabetta C. Parasole called Gemma Pretiosa, 1615. There is then a photo of some plain (not embroidered) extant Mezza Mandolina kept in the Bargagli collection in Florence. (You can download Old Italian Lace from here)
In my researching I found that all texts cite Parasole in one text or another of hers. Unfortunately extant Parasole texts are extremely rare and while out of copyright, are part of private and museum collections and are not yet in the public domain. The German version of a 1616 text can be found here but there are no patterns for Mezza Mandolina. One librarian at the Smithsonian Museum told me that they plan to scan their rare texts and put them online in the future, this is exciting as they have four Parasole texts in their collections.
The tiny text Origine ed uso delle Trine a Refe has a rather complex pattern for embroidering Mezza Mandolina from Parasole's Pretiosa gemma delle virtuose donne, reprinted by Luchino Gargano in Venice, 1600 - you can see it here. I'm not sure how you would manage something so complex on netting but then, I don't have any experience in doing it!
Enza decided to see if she could reproduce the Mezza Mandolina pattern from the Bronzino portrait. She had some good results which she shared with me but asked me to wait until she could perfect her technique and she has just sent me this photo of her results:
She has written of her adventures on her website (click on Mezza Mandolina - text in Italian) and she also found this extant example of Mezza Mandolina from the late 19th century in the National Museum of Abruzzo.
Does anyone know anything else about Mezza Mandolina? Please leave a comment below.
Thanks to Enza for sharing her photo and adventures with us!