The “Cordoban” is made from tanned goat’s hides (from either bucks or does), of high-quality and usually tanned using sumac.. Sumac is a plant that produces much higher quality leather than those produced using other tanning plants, such as oak or pine bark. Its perfect combination of flexibility, suppleness, strength and durability has made it a highly-prized type of leather which is used for making a wide variety of items.
Since medieval times, “Cordobanes” have been used for lining caskets, trunks, chests and cases and for manufacturing luxury shoes and gloves. Despite their mainly functional purpose, "Cordobanes” were often ornamented and decorated with painted motifs, embossed or engraved with incisions or openwork, all of which enhanced their luxury value.
Cordoba was the first and foremost manufacturing centre for this type of leather, although production quickly spread throughout the peninsula, and soon all leather items with these characteristics were known as "Cordobanes”, even if they were not actually made in this city. In Hispano-Arabic Cordoba, the "Cordobanes” were created after the introduction of Arabic tanning techniques and the exploitation of its unrivalled natural resources of goatskin and sumac. . Soon "Cordobanes” achieved widespread fame and popularity, and were exported to Western Europe and the Spanish colonies of America. Due to their huge export market, a number of laws were passed to limit foreign trade, in order to avoid shortages and price increases in the markets of mainland Spain.
The “Guadameci” is an artistic leatherwork technique, characterized by applying a thin film of silver on the tanned leather in preparation for painting or applying polychrome to the leather on a permanent basis.. The surface can then either be painted with various decorative motifs or marked with an iron.
The “Guadameci” is made from pre-tanned sheepskin from either rams or ewes (vegetable tanning) and the leather used must be of the highest quality to achieve the best results. The uses of the “Guadameci” are clearly aesthetic, and it is used mainly for luxury decorative items. It has been used as interior wall covering, but also for the upholstery of chairs and sofas, for making cushions, screens, bedspreads, curtains, carpets, and for coating caskets and chests. The two main features in which “Guadameciles” differ from "Cordobanes” are the type of leather used and the gilt background.. The leather is silver coloured at first, but then vermillion is added to some parts to imitate gold, and after that, the polychrome is added and it is marked with an iron.
This style originated in the south of the Iberian Peninsula under Arab rule. The Arabs introduced both the techniques for leather tanning as well as the artistic craftwork on the tanned leather, and its influence spread throughout the peninsula.
The word "Guadameci" comes from the Arabic word “Wad'almasir” meaning “decorated leatherwork” and it is traditionally claimed to have originated in the North African city of Ghadames, which was famous for its leather in medieval times.
Later, the Moors and Mudejars inherited the old Arab traditions, and became its main producers.. Because of its attractive appearance, it was used as wall covering, on altars, paintings, rugs, jewellery boxes, screens, and so on. In Spain, the different artistic schools incorporated into their leatherwork the serene geometric patterns of the Arabic “Guadameci” decoration from the 12th to the 15th centuries and from the Baroque to the Neoclassical era. Only a few specimens of 14th and 15th century leatherwork has survived, but all have clearly Arabic style motifs.
The 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were the golden age of leatherwork. The leather worker was considered an aristocrat among those of his guild. The “Guadameci” became a symbol of wealth in many homes.
The art of the "Cordobanes” and “Guadameciles” continued to flourish until the late 18th century. Then, due to a number of factors, it fell into decline and oblivion. The quality of leather dropped, as farmers sought higher economic returns. The industrialization of the cloth industry also led to cloth being used instead of leather as covering for walls, allowing for a greater variety of designs and colours. Another factor which led to its decline was the appearance in Japan of the first paper wall coverings imitating the “Guadameci” style. These paper coverings replaced the “Guadameci”, and we can therefore pride ourselves on the fact that the “Guadameci” was the original forerunner of what we now call wallpaper.