Dutch Gilded Leather


Rather Nice

The Dutch speak with a refreshing directness. Coming from a culture that wraps everything in double euphemisms and metaphorical evasions, such directness can feel like a cold shower. I shall try to be direct about the work of the Goudleer-Atelier Van Soest (Van Soest Gold Leather Studio) — it's rather nice. Sorry if such candour knocks you back onto your heels, but just look at the photos surrounding this text.

About Van Soest

Van Soest is a leather workshop producing and restoring gilded leather. Sebastiaan Van Soest inherited the workshop from his father, who was a skilled practitioner in the art of gilding leather and preserving historical examples of its use. Sebastian is the only Dutch craftsman working leather in this way today.
Dutch Golden Age
Gilded leather harks back to a (literally) more gilded age. Known by different names throughout Europe — cuir de cordue, cordovan, goudleer — it refers to leather that is gilded and often embossed. Historically, it was used for wall panels, as chair upholstery and to cover furniture.
Painstaking layers
The leather is embossed by shaping over a mould when wet. The embossed leather is then painted and gilded in painstaking layers before varnishing seals the effect. As well as gold leaf, other paint colours may be applied and contemporary leather colours used as the base.

The painting you see here is by Pieter de Hooch of a house from the Dutch Golden Age. Imagine a wall of gilded leather at your place.


Leather walls
You can see good examples of leather panels in well-preserved houses throughout Europe. It became quite the fashion for the bekakt as an alternative to tapestries.  Next time you visit a National Trust or English Heritage property see if you spot some.

Based outside Delph, Sebastian has expanded the craft of gilded leather to the production of leather items such as bags, chairs and screens. Most of these items are made on request, though the Van Soest web site presents some items for sale.

Here we see the first bag produced by Goudleer-Atelier Van Soest in collaboration with Mutsaers Leather.


As I say, rather nice.

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