Our History, Past and Present

Andriana Zon was born in 1839. In 1858 she married count Alessandro Marcello, mayor of Venice and member of the Italian Parliament. A cultured and intelligent woman, she maintained friendships and corresponded with illustrious Italians and foreign personalities.

For 25 years she was Queen Margherita’s lady-in-waiting. At the age of thirty Andriana became a widow with seven children. Starting in 1871 she began promoting the revival of Burano lace.

The winter that year was particularly harsh. With the frozen lagoon limiting the fishermen’s activity, living conditions on the island became even more difficult. The Honorable Paolo Fambri and Countess Andriana Marcello Zon learned of the last living lacemaker, the guardian of the secrets to Punto in aere (Punto in aria, literally lace in air) lace made only using a needle and thread without woven backing. They asked the lacemaker to teach her art to the girls of the island. This led to the creation, not without effort, of the Burano Lace School. The number of students grew from the original 8 pupils in 1873 to 250 in 1878 and 310 in 1890. The fame of this technique was ensured by noblewomen and the Queen herself, who lent their intricate patterns and motifs to be copied. The school was such a success that it opened two shops on Saint Mark’s Square in Venice as well as in other European capitals and even abroad. Besides the cultural value of the Burano Lace School, one must also remember its social function in favour of young girls who were welcomed in a heated environment, were fed healthy meals, and received an education, which gave them a future through training and employment.

Ancient poster of the Lace making school in Burano – 19th century
Andriana Marcello, portrait by Alessandro Milesi

After her death in 1893, Andriana’s son Girolamo Marcello kept her interest in lace alive. Her grandson Alessandro and his children subsequently continued the tradition through the Fondazione Andriana Marcello.
In the early 1900s there was a progressive decline in the demand for lace due to the simplification of fashion, the discovery of synthetic fibres, and the affirmation of the Industrial Revolution. The school closed its doors in 1972. The building, the collections of ancient and modern lace, and the archive of lace patterns owned by the Marcello family were donated to Fondazione Andriana Marcello. The patrimony of the Foundation was loaned to the Municipality of Venice and then to Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia. After a radical restoration project in the 1980s, the Lace Museum on the island of Burano is now housed in the historic headquarters of the School.