art nouveau mirror frame

finished water gilded frame


The photos below show the process of restoration on an Art Nouveau mirror frame.
‘Water Gilding’ started around the 15th century and was used to apply gold, white gold or silver leaf to a gesso ground on a panel, canvas or wood base.

Here, we had a very broken heavily carved, stripped wood frame from Austria circa 1900.

After the frame had been glued with traditional glue used in gilding and cabinet making from centuries past, a trip to Florence in Italy produced the rest of the best materials for the remaining restoration. The trip had been planned before undertaking the job…just an excuse to go to ZECCHI BELLE ARTE for the most beautiful art supplies in the world.!

The process continued with 10 coats of gesso applied in one day and allowed to dry slowly then rubbed to a porcelain like finish before applying a ‘bole ground’ which is clay pigment mixed with the same traditional glue. The pigment colored glue is also rubbed to a sheen before laying the leaf. After all the parts were gilded with the silver and white gold leaf, it is left to completely dry before burnishing to a brilliant shine with a tool of agate stone.

Now it had to look a 100 years old!! The distressing is achieved by rubbing the higher surfaces, those naturally exposed to more wear, with a fine pumice powder which reveals the ‘bole’ color and the overlap of leaves which is a trademark of water gilded pieces.

Finally, silver leaf has to be sealed to prevent tarnishing. Gold and white gold can be left alone.

The entire restoration from start to finish took140 hours of labour



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