This needle lace flounce would have been part of a set, intended for furnishing or possibly ecclesiastical use. The set was probably divided up and dispersed in the 19th century, and there are further sections and fragments in a number of other museum collections. Its quality and elaborate symbolism suggest that it may have been a commission associated with the court of Louis XIV of France (reigned 1643-1715). The design incorporates theatrical figures, crowns, canopies, obelisks, trophies of arms and portrait medallions, all set among scrolling flowers. The figure holding a sceptre below a laurel wreath held by two putti has been interpreted as Louis XIV himself, especially as a sun appears above his head, but the composition also includes the moon and stars together with owls to represent night so may be allegorical.
In 1665 the French government established state-sponsored lace industries to develop local production, and stop the import of costly Venetian needle lace and Flemish bobbin lace. The government persuaded Venetian and Flemish lacemakers to come to France. It allocated them to a number of towns selected as centres for the new industry. The most successful was the needle lace industry based at Alençon and Argentan. French needle lace, known as 'point de France', soon began to compete with Venetian needle lace. It developed the distinctive form shown here, with patterns in the style of Jean Bérain (1637-1711), a leading designer at the court of Louis XIV, appointed Dessinateur de la Chambre et du Cabinet du Roi in 1674.