Monitoring an early 15th century cuir bouilli coffer deckle (City Museum, Nivelles, Belgium)


The city museum in Nivelles, Belgium requested a conservation treatment and visual documentation of an early 15th century cuir bouilli (the medieval Norman-French term of boiled leather) coffer deckle, with remains of a polychrome painting. The technique was popular in Paris and Flanders in the high Middle-Ages, not only for armour, but also for decorating the covering material of small coffers with devotional scenes.The leather of this skilfully tooled but severely damaged panel (245 to 320 mm), is depicting a ‘Closed Garden with a Virgin and Child’. Conservator Lieve Watteeuw and photographer Bruno Vandermeulen (RICH team) monitored last week the medieval object with the minidome, to document the topography of the leather surface, like tools used to create the scene (e.g. pounces, stamps and knifes of different thickness). The highest point in the shaped leather is the shoulder of the virgin, ca 40 mm higher than the gilded background.


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