Michele A. Caron

the artist and her work

Our fascination with gold, in its many forms, is as ancient as history itself. The history of gilding predates Christ and has maintained a strong grasp on the viewer's imagination since the time we first applied gold to a decorative object.

Gilding has always enhanced and embellished the power and stature of the patron and has provided the artisan with an inspiring and most gratifying medium. Gilding appeared in many homes prior to the frame, and found its way into the populace view through early Christian icons.

The spread of Christianity, in part, meant the spread of fine gilded objects. The art of gilding has changed little remaining reliant on the following procedure: A sound and stabile vehicle as substructure to carry the gesso, bole and gold layers. We are probably most familiar today with the art of gilding and its hold on our imagination through the gilded frame.

A short view of the fine gilded frame is as follows: a wood substrate is chosen for the frame molding that is suitable to receive a layer of rabbit skin glue and then allowed to dry. Next a thin-bodied gesso is applied with subsequent layers of gesso added until the appropriate body is established. A layer of colored bole is applied and then the water gilding process begins.

Following is a brief description of the terms above:

  •  Rabbit skin glue: a glue rendered from rabbit skins, very durable and with many unique properties
  •  Gesso: is a formula made up of rabbit skin glue, water and calcium carbonate, often referred to as "the chalk or plaster".
  •  Bole: is colored earth clay that is added to rabbit skin glue and water and functions as the base color and mastic medium for the gold leaf.
  •  Water gilding: is the process of activating the rabbit skin glue in the bole layer just before the gold leaf is laid on.

    The history, function and beauty of gilding are currently enjoying a vital renaissance. The above is a very brief description of the gilding history and is an attempt to familiarize you with some of the terms. It is our hope that this will create more questions than it answers.

         --Michele A. Caron

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    Member of: New England Conservation Association and the Society of Guilders

    Articles by Michele A. Caron:

    The Question of Water Gilding: June 30, 2010 at Florenceart.net

    28 Back Nippen Road,
    Buxton, Maine 04093
     (207) 671-7389 

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