Panicale is a small town in Umbria, Italy. It is where an Italian lady by the name of Anita Belleschi Grifoni founded a school of embroidery and named it Ars Panicalensis [Art of Panicale] in the early 1930s.
Born in Panicale in 1889, Anita lost her mother at a young age and was then taken in by the Institute of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish were she received her education and was taught embroidery. When she was in her forties, Anita was asked to restore a veil owned by the Countess Barabino di LeMura. Whether the veil was Venetian or French is unclear, in any event Anita was then inspired to start a revival of the technique of Embroidery on Tulle. She studied many antique pieces at the Collegiate Church of St. Michael Archangel and in other local churches and the embroidery school was born.
Anita's designs were of typical 19th century taste: mostly floral motifs enriched by volutes and festoons, or birds of paradise on flowering branches, love knots, ribbons, landscapes, swallows and rural elements.
The school provided a means for local women to earn some financial and moral independence by making and selling their work. Anita was so convinced of the potential of Ars Panicalensis that she sent some samples to the House of Savoy. As a result, Anita and her daughter embroidered the christening robe for Princess Maria Pia of Savoy. The embroideries became well-known and sought after by the upper class and noble families and the school was commissioned to do bridal veils, tablecloths and other items destined not only for individual use but also for Embassies and many pieces went out to foreign markets.
Today you can see many of these works in the Panicale Tulle Museum in the Church of S. Agostino in Piazza Regina Margherita, Panicale. A few photos are here. Paola Matteucci, a master of the technique of Ars Panicalensis consults and assists in the management and promotion of the museum. She also teaches courses on the technique and in 2004, wrote for and co-edited the book, Ars Panicalensis, il Museo del Tulle 'Anita Belleschi Grifoni'.
I was lucky enough to see her display in Rimini at the Italia Invita Forum. The work was breathtakingly beautiful and the display was the talk of the show. Be sure to watch the slideshow of the display at the Italia Invita Forum in Rimini in 2007.
Read about Ars Panicalensis at Tuttoricamo under the 'Techniques' heading, the article is entitled: Embroidery on Tulle. While you're there, check out the book reviews for a review of the book Ars Panicalensis, il Museo del Tulle 'Anita Belleschi Grifoni' and the CD offered by Paola Matteucci in the 'Books' section under the heading: Other Italian Techniques.
The book (with text in Italian and English) and the CD (Italian but has some English text - step by step photos are very easy to follow) are available directly from Paola Matteucci's website. She also sells kits!