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Jun 24, 2013

Medieval Mondays: Gilded Leather

Before there was wallpaper there was gilded leather. Wealthy homeowners would decorate their walls with panels of leather such as these.

Gilded leather has its origins in Libya, where it was first developed around the 6th century. By the 9th century it had made it to Spain. It was slow to spread north of the Pyrenees. Eventually it caught on in the Low Countries and became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Gilded leather is a bit of a misnomer. It's actually leather covered with a silver foil. To keep the silver from oxidizing a varnish was applied that gave it a golden color.

These photos were taken at the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, Belgium. This old printing company dates back to the 1550s and is filled with some fascinating old printing presses, antiquarian volumes, and of course walls decorated in gilded leather!


  1. They used it as wallpaper?
    "I like your wallpaper - what is it?"