An authentic material? Gilt leather imitations in late nineteenth-century Britain

Taylor, Clare (2024). An authentic material? Gilt leather imitations in late nineteenth-century Britain. In: Post-prints of the 12th Interim Meeting of the ICOM-CC Leather and Related Materials Working Group, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.


This article focuses on the revival of interest in gilt leather in nineteenth century Britain. It outlines how embossed, painted and lacquered imitations of gilt leather were used to promote costly new finishes and styles in wall decoration.
Firstly, it investigates the producers of these hangings, including Sanderson and their ‘Japanese Leather Paper’, drawing on evidence from samples of the designs. These will be compared with evidence for Jeffrey & Co’s marketing of tripartite wall decorations composed of a frieze, filling and dado. The paper will also draw on the photographic archive of Scott Morton & Co which demonstrates how this firm introduced Tynecastle Tapestry and on the products of Rottmann & Co.
Secondly, it discusses examples of selected houses in Scotland and England to show how these imitations were hung, including Jeffrey & Co’s ‘The Golden Age’ at Wythenshawe Hall, Manchester, and examples of Tynecastle Tapestry hung in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Other examples considered include a Cordelova frieze hung in the Ivanhoe Hotel, London.
Thirdly and finally, the article argues that such schemes reflected not only Aesthetic Movement taste for Japanese hangings but also much earlier taste for gilt leather. Sites considered will include Dunster Castle, Somerset, and the ‘Cleves’ Room at Preston Manor, Brighton, which combined Cordelova and Tynecastle canvas respectively with earlier gilt leather hangings in the same house, challenging easy distinctions between authenticity and reproduction.

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