top of page

Leaf gilding ... but ... what is that?

"Leaf gilding? ... but ... what is this?"

Aahhh ... yes ... do you make jewelry?

Do you restore paintings, stuff like that?

Do you do bookbinding?

It's in the churches, isn't it?

But the gold ... where do you buy it? Is it paint? Is it powder?

What do you mean with leaf gold? Do you melt them? It must be expensive, right?

Do you put them down with your hands? And how do you glue them?

The one shining there, is it a different gold?

Oh well, is there a Doreur CAP? Ornamentalist, what does that mean? "

Here is a small synthesis of the questions, or the remarks heard here and there, raised by this profession which does not benefit, unlike certain other crafts, from a very great readability.

Sometimes we think we know him. Well yes eh, everyone has something golden in mind, don't they? But not all that is gilded is done by the ornamental gilder (what about the jeweler, the goldsmith, the leather binder-gilder, the restorer of works of art, the framer?).

Or, when it is correctly identified, it immediately calls either:

- romantic images of the handling of the fragile leaf: fascinating, moreover, but representing a tiny part of the process ... but the most "photogenic" part (unlike the other stages which are much less "glamorous"!)

- famous representations (Versailles, Les Invalides, Rococo mirrors, etc.) and therefore remains confined to the field of a glorious past and classical restoration.

Contradictory phenomenon with which most of the so-called art professions are confronted (and giving rise to different relationships ...): stuck between respect / folklorization of ancestral know-how and current development attempts.

We must therefore do a work of teaching, and not only explain what his job consists of, but also manage to get it out of its backward-looking straitjacket, and I would even say "serious" (without falling into anything, hard, either. hard !) :

- it is therefore necessary to tell the story, show the tools, talk about specific technical processes (in particular those specific to the so-called "old-fashioned" gilding traditionally made on wood), expose the multiplicity of types of metal sheets that a gilder can work, manage to capture all the nuances that can be obtained with the same gold (mattness, shine), illustrate all this with the help of famous examples, etc.

- but at the same time, get to understand the link with a more contemporary practice, since it is about identical processes (even if the mixture has largely taken precedence over the tempera) adapted to supports, different objects, contexts, patterns ...

To this must be added the symbolic relationship to gold, which should in no way be confused with the dreadful "golden" (which only has 2 letters of gold in the name)! Confusion unfortunately widespread and which, depending on the mood of the moment, works for or against gold.

It can generate a strong rejection, a kind of disgust, or a (too) great sacralization / fascination ...

bottom of page