|A view of the Doheny Mansion rendered in needle lace. The fine mesh |
in the background is the réseau of point de Venise à réseau.
|Detail shows various lace patterns.|
Back in September, we received a query from Nancy Milks-Evans of Lace Legacy, Etc., a Covington, Wash.-based educator and expert in rare and antique laces. She had read about the Doheny lace and wondered whether it had been auctioned along with Countess Doheny's rare book collection back in the late 1980s. Or did the Mount still have it?
The Doheny Docents do, in fact, have some of the lace safely stored away in No. 8 and bring it out on occasion for tours. (Much of the collection is evidently missing, whereabouts unknown.)
Nancy then presented us with a minor mystery of the kind we love. Back in 1975, Carolyn S. Murray of the Los Angeles Times produced a handful of articles about Chester Place, one of which was a short sidebar about the Doheny Lace collection. Ms. Murray quoted Gwen Krakeur, the widow of Martin Krakeur, owner of Beverly Hills' famed linen store Grande Maison de Blanc and the designer of the lace.
Mrs. Krakeur recalled that the lace had been made on the island of Burano, Italy. This couldn't be right, Nancy suggested, because this special kind of lace wasn't made there – the best point de Venise à réseau came from Brussels. Did we have any documentation?
Nothing like sales receipts or anything conclusive like that – but we did find something nearly as good: details in the master's thesis of Sister Mary Irene Flanagan, CSJ.
Sister Irene, a longtime Home Economics professor who earned her degree at San Jose State College in 1967, documented the architecture, furniture and contents of the Doheny Mansion. In the section about the dining room is a picture and her description of one of the place mats:
Designed in 1931 by Mr. Martin Krakeur of the Grande Maison de Blanc, the place mat represents one of four patterns that might well be termed the most beautiful lace sets in the world. ... This is an example of the most filmy and delicate of all point lace.Sister Irene describes how the lace took more than three years to complete by handful of artisans. And here she solves the mystery:
The designs were minutely executed on graph paper and approved before being sent to Brussels. Here the finest lace makers took on the work of point de Venise à réseau.And, wouldn't you know, Sister Irene attributes this information to none other than Gwen Krakeur, whom she interviewed at 8 Chester Place on November 15, 1966.
Memories are tricky, and archives will often reveal bits of conflicting information, even from the same source. We seldom have scholarly research on hand to solve a mystery but this time we lucked out, and in the process have added a footnote to the Mount's story of lace.
|The collection originally comprised four each of these four designs|
of the Doheny Mansion. Remaining pieces are shown on Docent tours.