Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science

Gilt leather artefacts

Developing research directions for material characterization and improved conservation strategies

Gilt leather was one of the most fashionable and costly types of wall hanging in the western world in the 16th to 18th centuries. It consists of a leather substrate, often embossed with several decorative surface layers composed of animal glue, silver leaf, egg white, and a yellow colored lacquer - creating the golden appearance – one or more paint layers and occasionally a varnish layer. Conservation of gilt leather is a challenge due to the complex nature of the material. Aging processes and earlier conservation treatments using oils and wax have resulted in the silver tarnishing and the degradation of paint and varnish layers, causing a matte and dark appearance that reduces legibility. This project aims to understand the complex characteristics of gilt leather, its material dynamics and interactions with past and present conservation materials. It will do so by using advanced non-destructive testing instrumentation, something that has been done very rarely for this type of material. The results of the project will be used to develop new strategies for the conservation of gilt leather.

Groves - Martine Posthuma de Boer

Gilt leather (1675), the Hechal of the Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam. Photo: RCE

Principal investigator

  • Dr. R.M. Groves ( Delft University of Technology)

Co-Principal Investigators

  • Drs. R. Hoppenbrouwers (Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg)
  • Dr. E.F. Koldeweij (Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands)

Research team

  • Drs. L. Bijvoet (Jewish Historical Museum Amsterdam)
  • Dr. ir. J.M.C. Mol (Delft University of Technology)
  • E. Nijhoff Asser (University of Amsterdam)
  • Dr. V. Papadakis (Delft University of Technology)
  • M. Posthuma de Boer MA (Delft University of Technology, University of Amsterdam)
  • J.M.W.C. Schatorjé (Limburgs Museum)
  • F. van der Velden (Fries Museum, Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics)
  • Drs. B. van Velzen (Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg)
  • Dr. G.J.M. Weber (Rijksmuseum)

Participating institutions

  • Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Fries Museum
  • Jewish Historical Museum Amsterdam
  • Limburgs Museum
  • Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics
  • University of Amsterdam
  • Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg

Want to know more?

Please click here for project updates and background information.

Published by  NICAS

6 April 2017