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C for Cordovan (Gilt Leather)

Published on , by Jean-Pierre Fournet

Cordovan or cordwain ("from Cordoba"), also called gilt leather, was produced and used throughout Europe. A luxury technique of which few examples have survived.

Madona with Child, flat, tooled gilt leather, Italy, 16th century, 65 x 46 cm, Saint... C for Cordovan (Gilt Leather)

Madona with Child, flat, tooled gilt leather, Italy, 16th century, 65 x 46 cm, Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Museum.
© C. Bonnot-Diconne

Gilt leather was used throughout Europe, especially between the 16 th and 18 th centuries, to decorate the interiors of wealthy houses. It was mainly used for wall hangings, but also for table and furniture coverings, bedspreads, floor mats, screens, and to upholster seats and cushions. In the religious sphere, it was used for altar hangings and sometimes for priestly garments. These decorative leathers, of which there are few examples today, appeared in Cordoba at the end of the first millennium, shortly after the Arab conquest. Their production technique, inspired by Middle Eastern and North African methods, were adapted and developed by local craftsmen with longstanding experience in leatherwork. They became highly popular and were then produced in most of the Iberian peninsula's major cities, reaching their peak in the 16 th century. At that time, they were exported in large quantities to most European countries, where they were rapidly copied. Resulting from a stereotyped production method,…
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