Versailles Palace from a decorative painter’s eye: Gilding


22K, oil size surface leaf on the gate of the Palace of Versailles.  Notice the background palace with gilded roof done with same gold.  There are several million dollar worth of gold in the gilding at the palace.  Remember: real gold is an inalterable material (it does not oxidize or rust) and therefore,  perfect for outdoor conditions.


This next three are great examples of water gilded boiserie.  Look on the bottom left, you will notice al little chip exposing the gesso and raw wood


Look on the left edge and see the exposing lap mark of gold this is a tell-tale of water gilded job


Notice the dull finish and the red color of the bole coming through the high points


22K water gilded – notice the highly burnished ribbons and the upper shell.  This burnish is achieved with an agate stone.


This is a great example of mid 19thc water gilding with a little polychrome to make palette and compass pop out.  The gilding is probably original because it is so matted down.  If that’s the case, it has held up quite nicely for 183 years!


With a keen eye, it is possible to see these marks when you visit museums.  These “scrape downs” are current marks of a conservator at work.  He uses a fine scalpel to scrape off many layers as to expose the rabbit skin glue and raw wood.


This section is due for a full restoration


In this gilded ceiling, conservators have started the first step in restoration.  Thin pieces of rice paper that are treated with certain chemicals, are applied to areas.  With time, the paper reactivates and/or stabilizes the surface.  I love to see these restorations in situ.


If you would like additional information about the process of water gilding and restoration in Versailles, you must get this book, by my friend, Laurent Hissier.  If you are interested in gilding during the lively time period of the Palace of Versailles, you would also enjoy this book on the boiseries of the Carnavalet Museum.








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