• Arts of the Samurai  auction at Christies

    Sale 2378

    Arts of the Samurai

    23 October 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 50

    A Pair of Embossed Leather Quivers

    EDO PERIOD (17TH-18TH CENTURY)

    Price Realised  

    A Pair of Embossed Leather Quivers
    Edo period (17th-18th century)
    Each narrow and rectangular with wood side splints, of embosssed, painted and varnished European leather with flowers on a ground of embossed diaperwork, with orange silk tassels, gilt-copper ornamental fittings, the sides and backs of undecorated black leather
    24cm x 20cm each approx. (2)


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    The craft of so-called gilt leather, Moorish in origin, was developed in Europe in the early Middle Ages. Tanned hides were cut into standard sizes, covered with silver foil and varnished to give a golden gloss (the yellow varnish caused the silver to look gold). It was a Dutchman who invented the technique of embossing thin sheets of gilt leather on wood press-molds in the early seventeenth century. Long vertical pieces of gilt leather were in vogue as wall hangings in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Dutch East India Company brought samples to Japan, at first as gifts for the shogun and other dignitaries and then for private trade. The Japanese had no use for wall covering, of course, but they cut up pieces to make exotic-looking tobacco pouches, drawstring purses and small boxes and screens, among other things. As demand increased, the imports, called kinkarakawa (gold Chinese leather), were imitated by the leather craftsmen of Himeji, a city famous for the production of white leather.

    Imported gilt leather was used for various parts of suits of armor in the Edo period, including shoulder guards and breast plates.