A centuries-old technique for gilding that lasts

For the sixty lead sculptures of the Latona fountain, the metal gilders will use the traditional technique of gilding with gold leaf. Already used for the restoration of several sculptures of the Garden, such as France Triumphant, this technique has the advantage of being long-lasting. As the sculptures have first to be treated by the metal restorers, this operation will be carried out from spring 2014, one of the last of the work programme.

Preparation of the surfaces 
Before starting the gilding as such, the gilders will prepare the lead sculptures of the peasants, frogs, lizards and turtles. For this, they will apply an anticorrosion treatment, and then two coats of a hard surface whose ingredients have remained the same for several centuries (linseed oil, turpentine, ochre yellow for the pigmentation and shiny varnish). 
Applying a sheet of gold leaf
Preparation of the surfaces  © EPV / Thomas Garnier

Gilding with gold leaf
The gilding will begin with the size coating: this is what allows the gold leaf to adhere to the surface. The gold leaf must be applied to it several hours after the size coating of the metal. Gilders say that they “put the size to bed” in the morning and gild in the afternoon. For applying the sheets of gold leaf, the gilders use the same tools as in the 17th century: gilding knife, cushion and pallet.
Handling the sheet of gold leaf using the gilding knife and pad
Handling the sheet of gold leaf using the gilding knife and pad © EPV / Thomas Garnier

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