A Mid-17thC Flemish Gilt Framed Embossed & Gilded Leather Wallpaper Fragment

Origin: Flemish
Period: Renaissance / Baroque
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1650-70
Height: 34”
Width: 27”
Depth: 2” (all in frame)

The gloriously painted, embossed and gilded leather wallpaper fragment, with fruit and flowers issuing from the centre in ruby red and peacock blue with white highlights to a gilt ground and presented in a later gilt frame and surviving from the middle of seventeenth century Netherlands.

The panel has been well preserved in its frame as photographed. There is one small area of loss to the upper left corner. The colours remain impressively vivid and the frame is of good quality. There is an old depository label for storage on the reverse.

This type of heavily embossed leather wall covering were made during the second half of the 17th century and would have been very costly to produce, being been commissioned as part of a decorative scheme for a room in a large residence. Leather is pliable and could be decorated in various ways. Gilt-leather hangings were a prestigious and fashionable wall-covering in 17th century Netherlands. In terms of cost, only good quality tapestry was a more expensive way to furnish walls. The three-dimensionality, rich colours and metal foils created a rich and luxurious effect. Leather was also durable and had practical advantages over textiles in rooms used for dining, as they did not retain the smell of food. Gilt leather was also used as coverings for screens, chairs, mirror-boxes, chests, and cushions, table carpets, altar frontals, chasubles and independent panels to be displayed like pictures.

Cuir de Cordoue, or cordwain or cordovan, sometimes called gold leather (from Dutch "goudleer"), refers to painted and gilded (and often embossed) leather hangings, manufactured in panels and assembled for covering walls as an alternative to tapestry.

Cuir de Cordoue originated from North Africa and was introduced to Spain as early as the ninth century. In Spain such embossed leather hangings were known as guadamecí, from the Libyan town of Ghadames, while cordobanes ("cordovan") signified soft goat leather. In 1316, a Cuir de Cordoue guild existed in Barcelona. Spanish gold leather was popular until the early seventeenth century. With the advent of printed wallpaper from about 1650, often imported from China as well as made in Europe, the far more expensive leather wallcoverings began to decline, though they continued to be used, in a rather revivalist sprit, in very luxurious homes.

Extraordinary wallpaper for an extraordinary room.