Gilt Leather in Old Master Paintings – but not only !

Gillis van Tilborgh the Younger, born in Brussels 1625. He is famous for his genre paintings, interior scenes and portraits.

The “Vlaamsche Kamer” (Flemish room) could be compared to a parlour.  In these important houses they were often oak paneled rooms some combined the oak paneling with gild leather tapestries between dado and corniche other rooms were lined with gilt leather tapestries from plinth to corniche, for some of his paintings this setting was chosen.

Jan Siberechts a contemporary and friend of Gillis van Tilborgh has a reputation as a landscapes painter but as accomplished master he is a great portraitist too.

On a more humorous note: here a stunning portrait of …. my dog in front of his gilt leather tapestry. By Thierry Poncelet

As Always





2 thoughts on “Gilt Leather in Old Master Paintings – but not only !

  1. … and there are plenty of examples: see my text for my future book on gilt leather in Portugal since the 12th c. The references :

    Esta observação e revisão da pintura portuguesa decorre ainda das considerações publicadas nos anos de 1980 sobre as pinturas do século XVII dos Países Baixos, em particular pelo historiador holandês Eloy Koldeweij (cuja tese de doutoramento se focou nos guadamecis dos Países Baixos). As pinturas de Ottomar Elliger – «Portrait of Isack le Petit (1651-1723) in an interior» (1658) (GOULDLEER, 1989: 6) –, de Pieter de Hooch – «Interior» (circa 1668) (idem: 11) e «Interior with figures» (1663-1665) no Metropolitan Museum of Art –, de Eglon van der Neer – «Interior» (circa 1680) (idem: 26) –, Pieter de Wit – «Portrait of Dirck Wilre in the castle of St. George d’Elmina» (1669) (idem: 61) –, de Jan Vermeer – «The letter», (século XVII) no Rijksmuseum de Amsterdão –, Jan Brughel e Pieter Paul Rubens – «Alegoria» (circa 1620) (ARTE, 1998: 28) –, ou de Jan Siberechts – «Amateur room» (1627-1703) (GRANDES MESTRES, 2003: 77) –, mostram os interiors cobertos de guadameci. O MNAA tem ainda outra pintura – «Conversação», de Pieter de Hooch, datada do século XVII – que mostra guadamecis de parede e uma guardaporta atrás das figuras.  Refira-se que o comentário a esta última pintura de Jan Siberechts, referindo os panejamentos como couro de Córdova repuxado (GRANDES MESTRES, 2003: 77), mostra que, apesar da já considerável edição correcta de estudos sobre o guadameci extra-peninsular, permanece um rótulo generalista errado. O erro mantém-se no site Matriznet: «Num compartimento com chão de mosaico branco e preto e parede fundeira forrada com couro lavrado de Córdova» ( – nem é de Córdova, nem o termo técnico é correcto. (…..)Plus the most import references are the paintings  by Jan van Eyke, which seem to show hand-made gilt leather , medieval times:

    Alguns anos atrás, o MNAA teve como obra convidada a pintura «Virgem e o Menino com Santa Bárbara, Santa Isabel da Hungria e um doador (Jan Vos)» (óleo sobre madeira) (, de Jan van Eyke, datada de 1441; atrás das figuras está um requintado pano de armar de inspiração floral: grandes medalhões de pétalas, encerrando flores, envoltos por uma faixa serpenteando com motivos vegetalistas internos. O pintor flamengo, Jan van Eyck (c. 1390-1441), activo na corte, esteve em Lisboa em 1428, em visita diplomática, tratando do casamento entre Filipe o Bom, duque de Borgonha, e Isabel de Portugal (1397-1471), filha de D. João I e D. Filipa de Lencastre. Na Internet aparecem mais pinturas, com panos de armar cuja divisão em rectângulos sugere ser em guadameci: «Madonna with the Child reading» (1433) (; «Madonna at the fountain» (; «Madonna with Canon Joris van der Paele» (Jan van Eyck: Madonna with Canon Joris van der Paele, Groeninge Museum Bruges, Belgium from: http://vlaamseprimitieven.vlaamsekunstcoll… | Jan Van Eyck | Pinterest | Vans, Museums and Religious art);  «Triptych of Mary and Child, St. Michael, and Catherine» (Jan Van Eyck. Central panel of the Dresden Triptych of Mary and Child, St. Michael, and the Catherine, 1437. Oil on wood. Ge… | Jan Van Eyck – Madonnas | Pinterest | Saint michael, Triptych and Vans ou Trittico di Dresda ( 1437 ) – Jan van Eyck | jan van eyck | Pinterest | Vans); «Lucca Madonna» Mesmo admitindo que a divisão em rectângulos é devida às marcas das dobras dos brocados, por que é que tantas pinturas repetem esses vincos? Dir-se-ia que os gostos decorativos da corte lisboeta (nomeadamente os panos de armar em guadameci), partilhados com outras cortes europeias, foram passados para as pinturas de van Eyck; teremos aqui os motivos e cores dos guadamecis de 1400.

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    | | | | Jan van Eyck: Madonna with Canon Joris van der Paele, Groeninge Museum B…

    Jan van Eyck: Madonna with Canon Joris van der Paele, Groeninge Museum Bruges, Belgium from: http://vlaamseprimi… |



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    | | | | Jan Van Eyck. Central panel of the Dresden Triptych of Mary and Child, S…

    Jan Van Eyck. Central panel of the Dresden Triptych of Mary and Child, St. Michael, and the Catherine, 1437. Oil… |



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    | | | | Trittico di Dresda ( 1437 ) – Jan van Eyck | jan van eyck | Pinterest | …

    Trittico di Dresda ( 1437 ) – Jan van Eyck |



    1. Dear Franklin,
      Thank you for this richly illustrated comment.
      Well, few years ago I posted another set of pictures of paintings depicting interiors scenes and showing some gilt leather on the background.
      As gilt leather used to be widespread among the “better” society once in a while it appears in paintings of this period.
      It comes to me that this might be an interesting theme for a doctorate degree, not for me though….
      Your comment is partly written in Portuguese but a can deduct some daring statements. Its commonly accepted that gilt leather appeared in Flanders and Holland during the 16th century which coincides with the Spanish occupation of Flanders which was not just a military occupation it was part of a religious war between the protestant North – The Netherlands- and their southern border Flanders. In that troubled period the Catholic Church launched the Counter Reformation to “counter” the impact of Protestantism. To cut short one of the strategies ended up in doing the contrary of the Protestants. they removed all statuary and paintings from their churches and destroyed all decoration in the churches in the lands they concurred (Beeldenstorm – Flemish) The Catholics build richly decorated churches with bright paintings and much gold leaf …. etc in these particular times and geographical setting Cordovan leather or tooled leather came to Flanders. Where as in the Netherlands this trade became widespread due to the commercial trading routes from the Dutch and Flemish trading Co°’s.
      Your statement about Van Eyck using gilt leather as a background for depicting the Virgin is so to say at least daring.
      Its accepted that the background for depicting the Virgin in primitive painting is Gold Brocade, its the right setting for the unearthly Virgin, un-touchable and set apart in sort of a gilded shrine. In my opinion its also at least a century too early to see gilt leather in Northern European paintings. Gold (gilt) brocade was available, made in these countries by an establishes trade and by the skilled hands of hundreds of lady’s and good-wives while the gilt leather trade was not yet to be in these northern regions.
      looking forward to a your further comments on the subject.

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