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Foil and leaf gilding on cultural artifacts; forming and adhesion

Abstract : The process used to obtain foils of more and more thin thickness and coat them on artefacts varied during centuries. It started from thick foils of the first ages mechanically assembled and evolved until the rolled and beaten leaves, a few hundred nanometres thick. This paper will develop, through examples taken from laboratory studies on museum objects, the main evolution steps of gold leaf forming. It will discuss the present knowledge about processes used by hand-workers of different origins and periods: antic Egypt, Roman Empire, western and oriental Middle-Age, South America, modern Europe. A recent mechanical modelling work about gold forming by beating will be exposed. Then will be described, still through recent examples, some of the non-destructive and destructive laboratory methods used to characterise ancient and modern gildings, their composition, thickness and adhesion modes. The different coating process will be discussed, owing to the presently available knowledge. These depend on the substrate nature and the possible necessity to treat its surface before and during the gilding process. Such treatment varies from the "white preparation" found on antic Egyptian artefacts and also on wooden decoration of baroque Brazilian churches, to "oil gilding" used for the recent restoration of the Invalides roof in Paris. It may also include a high temperature firing, as for gilding with powder issued from leaf grinding on Middle-Age Syria glass. The paper will end with a listing of the numerous research perspectives open for the presently poorly developed study of the adhesion mechanisms between gold leaf and its substrate, to understand fully the gilding process.
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Contributor : Magalie Prudon <>
Submitted on : Monday, August 1, 2011 - 4:03:30 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 5:22:54 PM

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Evelyne Darque-Ceretti, Eric Felder, Marc Aucouturier. Foil and leaf gilding on cultural artifacts; forming and adhesion. Revista Matéria, Rede Latino-Americana de Materiais - Latin-American Materials Network, 2011, 16 (1), pp.540-559. ⟨10.1590/S1517-70762011000100002⟩. ⟨hal-00612920⟩



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