In 1830, Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), French novelist and playwright, wrote the significant novel ‘The Skin of Sorrow’ (la peau de chagrin) about a young man who finds a magic piece of shagreen that fulfills his every desire. But for every wish granted, the skin shrinks and the young man’s physical energy diminishes.
While the physical effects of our new Shagreen® collection, limited Artist Editions, are not quite as dramatic as the ‘chagrin’, anxiety and annoyance that Balzac’s hero felt, the material has quite a visual impact and a long and interesting history.Shagreen was originally made from untanned skin of the horse’s back or a wild donkey, whereas nowadays it is mostly made from shark or ray fish skin. The material’s leather texture and pebbled appearance reflects the light and gives off an ebony pearl and oyster pearl hue.
Some sources attribute its emergence to China around 900 a.D., others talk of production in 19th century Europe where it was used in book bindings, sword and dagger scabbards etc.
The coloring inspired the artists to create this new collection and reminds also of oil spot glazing that can be dated back to China’s Song Dynasty. An organic two-step mineral glaze process was used to create the shining and matte effects.The Artist Editions’ collection – Shagreen® – perfectly picks up on this subtle coloring that weaves together the beauty of sea life and manmade artistry. It is ideally combined in a neutral setting and a number of faucets.