Fragment of Leather Wallpaper
This 17th-century section of Spanish wallpaper is made of embossed and painted leather. The image, which has faded over time, depicts flowers in a vase surrounded by regal filigree ornamentation. To create the pattern and design on the leather, the hide would have been stamped using high heat and pressure. At the time, flowers, animals, geometric designs, and ornamental patterns were popular images for leather wallpaper, which would then be gilded or painted. This object comes with an exquisite gold Victorian frame, complete with intricately carved leaves, flowers, and swirls. However, with a change to a more modern, black frame, this object could become a striking piece of abstract art. Historically, people put tapestries on their walls as a means of decoration and insulation. Over time, wealthy individuals replaced tapestries with leather. Leather is a breathable material, yet can retain warmth. Leather wallpaper was not only used for its insulation quality, but was meant to be an investment and would often be part of an inheritance. In some places, antique rooms are still clad with remarkably unique leather wallpaper. However, interest in the material diminished in the 19th century as better and more affordable methods of insulation became available.
At this time in Spain, author Miguel de Cervantes’s (1547–1616) novel Don Quixote was first published, in two parts, in 1605 and 1615. The book is often considered to be the first modern novel, and a founding work of Western literature. Don Quixote remains one of the most translated books in the world, with the character of Quixote becoming an archetype. The word quixotic, meaning the impractical pursuit of idealistic goals, was inspired by de Cervantes’s book.