Partlet with high standing collar made in reticella work. Early 17th century, Holland. Partlet with high standing collar made in reticella work. Early 17th century, Holland. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, BK-14612.

Reticella (Italian, ‘a small net’) is an extreme form of cutwork lace, and thereby classed as a form of embroidered lace. It dates from the late medieval period and involves the large-scale removal of squares of woven ground cloth, usually linen, that are filled in with embroidered patterns. Later reticella used a grid made of thread rather than a cloth ground.

Both methods result in a characteristic geometric design of squares and circles with arched or scalloped borders. The resulting appearance of the cloth is like a giant mesh or network. Reticella is distinctive in the large size of its individual meshes (6–13 mm) and the use of buttonhole stitch to create the patterns within each mesh.

Historically, reticella is younger than the first forms of embroidered lace. The earliest written record that appears to refer to reticella is the Sforza inventory (1493), where it is called redezela. Tagliente’s pattern book (1527) refers to rete, while Il Specchio di Pensieri (1548) uses punto in rede. In 1560, Queen Elizabeth I’s (1533-1603) wardrobe accounts list small partlets or ruffs worked in de opera rete and de opera rhet (i.e. ‘of net work’), which probably mean reticella, as this form was very popular during the Elizabethan period for decorating ruffs.

Other pattern books that include reticella are those by Federico de Vinciolo (Paris, 1587) and Cesare Vecellio (Venice, published in 1617). These books were very popular and were translated into various languages and frequently reprinted. Reticella remained popular in Western Europe until the mid-seventeenth century.

Reticella is regarded as a forerunner of punto in aria.

Also called: Greek point; reticello; point coupé; point couppe; radexela; radicelle

See also: The Laughing Cavalier; schematic survey of lace types


  • EARNSHAW, Pat (1984). A Dictionary of Lace, Aylesbury: Shire Publications Ltd, pp. 145-146.
  • KLIOT, Jules and Kaethe KLIOT (1994). The Needle-Made Lace of Reticella, Berkeley, CA: Lacis Publications.
  • VINCIOLO, Federico de (1971). Renaissance Patterns for Lace, Embroidery and Needlepoint, New York: Dover Books.
  • (retrieved 29 May 2016).

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam online catalogue (retrieved 29 June 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 05 March 2017 11:58
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