1902 Encyclopedia > Mural Decoration > Mural Decoration Methods: (5) Sgaffito. (6) Stamped Leather.

Mural Decoration
(Part 5)


(5) Sgaffito. (6) Stamped Leather.

5. Sgraffito.—This is a variety of stucco work used chiefly in Italy from the 16th century downwards, and employed only for exteriors of buildings, especially the palaces of Tuscany and northern Italy. The process is this. The wall is covered with a coat of stucco made black by an admixture of charcoal; over this a second very thin cost of white stucco is laid. When it is all hard the designs is produced by cutting and scratching away the white skin, so as to show the black under-coat. Thus the drawing appears in black on a white ground. This work is effective at a distance, as it requires a bold style of handling, in which the shadows are indicted by cross-hatched lines more or less near together.[Footnote 37-2] Flowing arabesques mixed with grotesque figures occur most frequently in sgraffito. It is stilll largely practicsed in northern Italy, and has been used with success in the external decoration of the South Kensington Academy of Music.

6. Stamped Leather.—This was a very magnificent and expensive form of wall-hanging, chiefly used during the 16th and 17th centuries. Skins, generally of goats or calves, were well tanned and cut into rectangular shapes. They were then covered with silver leaf, which was varnished with a transparent yellow lacquer, making the silver look like gold. The skins were then stamped or embossed with patterns in relief, formed by heavy pressure from metal dies, one in relief and the other sunk. The relief were then painted by hand in many colours, generally brilliant in tone. Italy and Spain (especially Cordova) were important seats of this manufacture; and in the 17th century a large-quantity was produced in France. Fig. 5 gives a good example of Italian stamped leather of the 16th century.

Italian stamped leather (16th C.) image

Fig. 5 -- Italian Stamped Leather. 16th century.

In England, chiefly at Norwich, this manufacture was carried on in the 17th and 18th centuries, in many cases of every excellent design. In durability and richness of effect stamped leather surpasses most other forms of movable wall-decoration.


(37-2) A good description of the process is given by Vasari, Tre Arti del Disegno, cap, xxvi.

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