Panel of an embossed leather wall hanging
Probably Venice, c. 1600
Embossed leather, silver leaf plating, patent gold, paint
Bequest of Émile Peyre, 1905
Inv. PE 462
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The custom of covering the walls of a room with leather developed in the Middle Ages in Cordoba in Andalusia, before spreading to the rest of Spain in the sixteenth century, then throughout Europe. Calf, sheep and sometimes goat skins were cut into squares that were sewn together. This piece features three different kinds of square: central squares decorated with vases; vertical edge squares decorated with candelabra; horizontal edge squares decorated with balusters.
The leather was covered with silver leaf, and sometimes with yellow varnish to imitate gilding; the overall hanging was sometimes embellished with colors. The decoration, in slight relief, was block-printed on the front, and sometimes completed with chased patterns, especially on the backgrounds. A repoussé printing technique creating higher relief was developed in the Netherlands in 1628.