Shagreen

Last updated
An antique round box covered with pearl ray shagreen, ground down to produce a smooth, puzzle-like surface. Galuchat 2..jpg
An antique round box covered with pearl ray shagreen, ground down to produce a smooth, puzzle-like surface.

Shagreen is a type of rawhide consisting of rough untanned skin, historically from a horse's or onager's back, or from shark or ray.

Contents

Etymology

The word derives from the French chagrin and is related to Italian zigrino and Venetian sagrin, derived from the Turkic sağrı / çağrı 'rump of a horse' or the prepared skin of this part. The roughness of its texture led to the French meaning of anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or annoyance. [1]

Uses and preparation

The white handle of this tanto (left) is covered with shagreen in its natural form. Tanto Kunimitsu.jpg
The white handle of this tantō (left) is covered with shagreen in its natural form.
Shagreen leather used in bookbinding. Chagrin(Cuir).jpg
Shagreen leather used in bookbinding.
Two small decorative elephants made of silver and shagreen. Shagreen and silver elephants.jpg
Two small decorative elephants made of silver and shagreen.

Shagreen has an unusually rough and granular surface, and is sometimes used as a fancy leather for book bindings, pocketbooks and small cases, as well as its more utilitarian uses in the hilts and scabbards of swords and daggers, where slipperiness is a disadvantage.

In Asia, the Japanese tachi, katana, and wakizashi swords had their hilts almost always covered in undyed rawhide shagreen, while in China, shagreen, whose use dates back to the 2nd century CE, [2] was traditionally used on Qing dynasty composite bows. Typically the ears and the spaces above and beneath the grip were covered by polished shagreen (in which the calcified papillae are reduced to equal height and form a uniform surface), sometimes with inlay work of different coloured shagreen. Shagreen was a very common cover for 19th-century reading glasses containers as well as other utensil boxes from China.

The early horse-skin variety of shagreen was traditionally prepared by embedding plant seeds (often Chenopodium ) in the untreated skin while soft, covering the skin with a cloth, and trampling them into the skin. When the skin was dry, the seeds were shaken off, leaving the surface of the leather covered with small indentations. Sources are not clear whether this was being done to imitate pearl ray-skin shagreen from East Asia or if the technique was developed separately.

In the 17th and early 18th centuries, the term "shagreen" began to be applied to leather made from sharkskin or the skin of a rayfish (probably the pearled ray, Hypolophus sephen ). This form is also termed sharkskin or galuchat. Such skins are naturally covered with round, closely set, calcified papillae called placoid scales, whose size is chiefly dependent on the age and size of the animal. These scales are ground down to give a roughened surface of rounded pale protrusions, between which the dye (again, typically green vegetable dye) shows when the material is coloured from the other side. This latter form of shagreen was first popularised in Europe by fr:Jean-Claude Galluchat (d. 1774), a master leatherworker in the court of Louis XV of France. It quickly became a fashion amongst the French aristocracy, and migrated throughout Europe by the mid-18th century. "The appeal of shagreen in Europe was closely bound up with the way the translucent skin absorbs colour, but in Japan, its whiteness was the measure of value". [3]

Scholars concur that its popularity in Central Asia, where green footwear made of shagreen was popular into the 19th century, probably came as the result of its introduction from China perhaps during the 16th century rule of Suleiman the Magnificent. [4] Three items made of shagreen can be found in the Topkapi collection.

Since the 18th century Shagreen has typically been used for covering portable items such as luggage, toilet cases and other boxes, the hard and robust looking finish seeming to assure its reputation for standing up to rough handling; book coverings are also known as well as larger pieces of furniture. The water resistant qualities ascribed to the finish are probably why there are many toiletry cases and associated objects such as shaving kits, snuff boxes and other items of a personal nature. The restrained look of the skin was felt to be very suitable for men.

Items continued to be manufactured during the 19th century, usually influenced by 18th century examples. There was a definite resurgence in items being made during the 1920s and 1930s, the lean hard finish and traditional pale green tone lending itself very well to the prevailing Art-deco style. Many of these items are designed along modernist lines with little 18th century influence. A broad range of items date from this period including furniture and luggage.

In the 1970s, Shagreen became fashionable again, partly due to the renewed interest in the Art-deco period. A range of items, including furniture such as small tables, have been manufactured since then, providing work for a small number of craftspeople catering to the luxury market. Small decorative items made of shagreen and silver have become popular in Southeast Asia; most are manufactured by high-end design studios in Thailand.

Medicine

In medicine, a shagreen patch is a patch of shagreen-like rough skin, often on the lower back, found in some people with the genetic condition tuberous sclerosis.

See also

Related Research Articles

Leather Durable and flexible material created by tanning animal skins

Leather is a durable and flexible material created by tanning animal rawhide and skins. The most common raw material is cattle hide. It can be produced at manufacturing scales ranging from artisan to modern industrial scale. Leather making has been practiced for more than 7,000 years; the earliest record of leather artifacts dates back to 2200 BCE.

Parchment Writing material made from untanned skins of animals

Parchment is a writing material made from specially prepared untanned skins of animals—primarily sheep, calves, and goats. It has been used as a writing medium for over two millennia. Vellum is a finer quality parchment made from the skins of young animals such as lambs and young calves.

Hilt Handle of a sword or similar weapon

The hilt of a knife, dagger, sword, or bayonet is its handle, consisting of a guard, grip and pommel. The guard may contain a crossguard or quillons. A tassel or sword knot may be attached to the guard or pommel.

A hide or skin is an animal skin treated for human use. The word "hide" is related to the German word "Haut" which means skin. The industry defines hides as "skins" of large animals e.g. cow, buffalo; the skins refer to "skins" of smaller animals: goat, sheep, deer, pig, fish, alligator, snake, etc. Common commercial hides include leather from cattle and other livestock animals, buckskin, alligator skin and snake skin. All are used for shoesclothes, leather bags, belts, or other fashion accessories. Leather is also used in cars, upholstery, interior decorating, horse tack and harnesses. Skins are sometimes still gathered from hunting and processed at a domestic or artisanal level but most leather making is now industrialized and large-scale. Various tannins are used for this purpose. Hides are also used as processed chews for dogs or other pets.

<i>Decoupage</i> Art of decorating an object

Decoupage or découpage is the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf and other decorative elements. Commonly, an object like a small box or an item of furniture is covered by cutouts from magazines or from purpose-manufactured papers. Each layer is sealed with varnishes until the "stuck on" appearance disappears and the result looks like painting or inlay work. The traditional technique used 30 to 40 layers of varnish which were then sanded to a polished finish.

Artificial leather, also called synthetic leather, is a material intended to substitute for leather in upholstery, clothing, footwear, and other uses where a leather-like finish is desired but the actual material is cost-prohibitive or unsuitable. Artificial leather is known under many names, including "leatherette", "imitation leather", "faux leather", "vegan leather", "PU leather" and "pleather".

Sheepskin

Sheepskin is the hide of a sheep, sometimes also called lambskin. Unlike common leather, sheepskin is tanned with the fleece intact, as in a pelt.

This glossary of ichthyology is a list of definitions of terms and concepts used in ichthyology, the study of fishes.

Japanese angelshark Species of shark

The Japanese angelshark is a species of angelshark, family Squatinidae, found in the northwestern Pacific Ocean off China, Japan, and Korea. It is a bottom-dwelling shark found in sandy habitats down to 300 m (980 ft) deep. This species has the flattened shape with wing-like pectoral and pelvic fins typical of its family, and grows to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) or more in length. Its two dorsal fins are placed behind the pelvic fins, and a row of large thorns occurs along its dorsal midline. Its upper surface is cryptically patterned, with numerous squarish dark spots on a brown background.

Porcupine ray Species of cartilaginous fish

The porcupine ray is a rare species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae. This bottom-dweller is found throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, as well as off West Africa. It favors sand, coral rubble, and seagrass habitats in inshore waters to a depth of 30 m (100 ft). A large and heavy-bodied species reaching 1.2–1.5 m (3.9–4.9 ft) in width, the porcupine ray has a nearly circular, plain-colored pectoral fin disc and a thin tail without any fin folds. Uniquely within its family, it lacks a venomous stinging spine. However, an adult ray can still defend itself ably with the many large, sharp thorns found over its disc and tail.

The pincushion ray or thorny freshwater stingray is a little-known species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, found in the rivers and lakes of West and Middle Africa. A heavy-bodied ray measuring up to 1.2 m (4 ft) across, this species can be distinguished by its rounded pectoral fin disk, reduced or absent stinging tail spine, and—in adults—numerous stout thorns covering its back and tail. In lieu of a long tail spine as in other stingrays, the pincushion ray employs these thorny denticles in defense. Seldom encountered since it was originally described, this species has been assessed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Henry VIIIs writing desk

Henry VIII's writing desk is a portable writing desk, made in about 1525-26 for Henry VIII. It is currently in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Shagreen ray Species of cartilaginous fish

The shagreen ray, also known as shagreen skate or fuller's ray, is a species of skate in the family Rajidae. This ray is found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, from Murmansk, Russia through Norway, southern Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Celtic Sea, the northern North Sea and Skagerrak, to northern Morocco, including (infrequently) the western Mediterranean Sea and the Madeira Islands. It is absent from the shallow waters off England and Wales.

Cowtail stingray Species of cartilaginous fish

The cowtail stingray is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, widespread in the Indo-Pacific region and occasionally entering freshwater habitats. Other common names include banana-tail ray, drab stingray, fantail ray, feathertail stingray, and frill tailed sting ray. This species is sometimes placed in the genus Dasyatis or Hypolophus. The most distinctive characteristic of the cowtail stingray is the large, flag-like ventral fold on its tail, which is especially prominent when the ray is swimming. This species is targeted by commercial fisheries as a source of high-quality shagreen, a type of leather, and its populations are now under threat from heavy exploitation.

Hipposandal

The hipposandal is a device that protected the hoof of a horse. It was commonplace in the northwestern countries of the Roman Empire, and was a predecessor to the horseshoe.

Humanity has used animal hides since the Paleolithic, for clothing as well as mobile shelters such as tipis and wigwams, and household items. Since ancient times, hides have also been used as a writing medium, in the form of parchment.

Leather has played an important role in Judaism and in Jewish life. Many items widely used by observant Jews are made from leather, such as:

Russia leather is a particular form of bark-tanned cow leather. It is distinguished from other types of leather by a processing step that takes place after tanning, where birch oil is worked into the rear face of the leather. This produces a leather that is hard-wearing, flexible and resistant to water. The oil impregnation also deters insect damage. This leather was a major export good from Russia in the 17th and 18th centuries because of its high quality, its usefulness for a range of purposes, and the difficulty of replicating its manufacture elsewhere. It was an important item of trade for the Muscovy Company. In German-speaking countries, this leather was also known by the name Juchten or Juften.

Leather wallpaper

Leather wallpaper is a type of wallpaper used in various styles for wall covering. It is often referred to as wrought leather. It is often gilded, painted and decorated. With the advent of wallpaper use from about 1650-1750, leather was used to cover and decorate sections of walls in the habitations of wealthy persons. Leather is pliable and could be decorated in various ways.

Handcrafts and folk art in Jalisco

Jalisco handcrafts and folk art are noted among Mexican handcraft traditions. The state is one of the main producers of handcrafts, which are noted for quality. The main handcraft tradition is ceramics, which has produced a number of known ceramicists, including Jorge Wilmot, who introduced high fire work into the state. In addition to ceramics, the state also makes blown glass, textiles, wood furniture including the equipal chair, baskets, metal items, piteado and Huichol art.

References

  1. Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989, s.v. chagrin and shagreen
  2. Guth, Christine, "Towards a Global History of Shagreen" in The Global Lives of Things, ed. by Anne Gerritsen and Giorgio Aiello. London: Rutledge, 2015, p. 66
  3. Guth, p. 64
  4. Guth, p. 65)

Further reading