The new Cordovan leather wall covering.What perhaps many people don't notice (or at least, don't recognise for what it is) is the Cordovan (aka Cordoba) leather wall coverings that are fixed between the ceiling and the painted panels. It too has become torn, fragile and damaged in places and a few weeks ago we encountered one of the house maintenance men putting up a brand new section, and carefully supporting and reapplying some of the old leather.
The old leather rolled up for storage.Cordoba leather wall covering was the height of fashion in the days before wallpaper and even before the fashion for silk damask. It has the advantage of being quite robust, and the embossed and painted Cordoba style is easily as decorative as any textile wall treatment. Later, in the 19th century, the early wallpapers like anaglypta would try to emulate the richly textured medieval and renaissance Spanish leather.
Cordoba leather is crimped, modelled or embossed by pressing the wet leather on to a hot bronze or wooden plate with the pattern engraved into it, or by working the leather from both the back and the front with a punch or spatula. Then the piece is gilded or silvered, painted and the background usually stained red or red-brown. I read something that indicated that the leather used for walls comes from horse skin, but I haven't been able to confirm it. The Cordovan origin of the technique led to the distinction between cordwainers (shoemakers using fine new materials) and cobblers (repairers of humbler footwear, reusing materials).
I bet not many people will even notice there is a new piece.I asked the man installing it where the reproduction piece had been made. He told me it was not Spanish but had come from Normandy. Apparently, after the expulsion of the Moors from Spain (which ultimately led to the expulsion of anyone not of Spanish Christian background), Normandy and Flanders absorbed many refugees and became one of the centres of the artform, and there are still a few highly skilled workshops operating there today, as well as in Spain and in North Africa. This atelier has a rather good blog with fabulous pictures. This company has done work for Cheverny in the past, but they are based in Paris.
The realisation that Cordoba leather was not just made in Spain and north Africa, and is much more of a generic name for a style of leatherworking than an indication of geographic origin has made me wonder now whether the original leather wall covering at Cheverny was made in France or Spain. I will have to ask the head house steward next time we are there - he knows everything there is to know about the house.