Flaps of this shape were employed for protecting book covers since at least the 13th century, but the use of lacquer over painted leather or pasteboard only began in the late 15th century. By the 1540s the repertoire of imagery on lacquer bookbindings had grown from floral and plant motifs resembling manuscript illumination to real and fantastic animals in landscape to figures in landscape, as in this flap. Here the standing figure with a walking stick and the youth below face right, where the main grouping of figures would have been arranged on the book cover. The artist has outlined the trees and plants in gold, a technique ultimately borrowed from 15th century Chinese lacquer.
[ Adrienne Minassian, New York, until 1964; sold to MMA]