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Decorative Finishes- Gilding, Oriental Lacquer, Japanning and Other Antique Finishes

Various decorative finish techniques have been used on furniture, woodwork, plaster, and the range of decorative objects. Decorative finishes are as old as furniture and homes. Although faux finishes, such as faux marbre (marble) and  faux bois (wood) were once developed as inexpensive substitutes for the original, with the disappearance of fine artistic craftsmanship, such decorative finishing techniques often command a premium relative to the real stone or wood. But the techniques do allow finishing of other medium such as plaster, or masonry, where wood or marble might not be possible.



American Chinoiserie Queen Anne Desk American Chinoiserie Queen Anne Desk before finishing

American Queen Anne Period Chinoiserie Gilt & Lacquered Desk, ca. 1720's- Owner had no clue to the beauty beneath the decayed and grimy varnish applied over the years



Several colors of gold and platinum leaf used on this rare example of American Chinoiserie Queen Anne Desk, after

Several colors of gold and platinum leaf used on this rare example of American Chinoiserie Queen Anne Desk, after

See details of conservation - American Queen Anne Period Chinoiserie desk



Gilding

 

Gold leaf conservation should use gold leaf, or other leaf of the same composition and application as the original. Water gilt gold leaf and oil gilt gold leaf must be done the same as originally applied, and glazed to match. Burnishing of water leaf must also mimick the original

 

Oil and water gilding can be done in gold, platinum, silver, bronze, or aluminum. Water applied gold leaf can be burnished to yield a highly polished, real "solid" metal appearance if not rubbed through to colored bole beneath. Many 17th or 18th century moldings or carved trim that were gilded utilized water gilding.

 

 
Chinese Lacquer

We prepare Chinese Lacquer using copal gum varnish (originally used) for Conservation. This piece has several colors of gold leaf, and platinum leaf in the sails and faces. Parcel gilding paints in the black details after the underlying surface is gilded.




Oil and water gilt can be done in gold, platinum, silver, bronze, or aluminum. Water gilding can be burnished to yield a highly polished, real "solid" metal appearance if not rubbed through to colored bole beneath. Many 17th or 18th century moldings or carved trim that were gilded utilized the water application technique.

Oil and water gilding can be done in gold, platinum, silver, bronze, or aluminum.


Milk paint with crackle finish

George III Period Chair Parcel Gilding

Milk paint with crackle finish
George III Period Chair Parcel Gold Leaf


Italian Chair with milk paint George I. Period Mirror Gilding Conservation

Italian Chair with milk paint
George I. Period Mirror Gold Leaf Conservation


This 18th century Italian chair with milk paint finish and japanned decoration suffered extensive losses. New Japanning was added to match the original surviving elements.



This George I period mirror was both oil and water gilt. The water gilt portions were burnished to match the original.



Milk Paint , Japanning, Oriental Lacquer

 

Stabilization of decorative finishes is fundamental. Infilling of such finishes, matching the original finishes and materials, requires special skills, experience and education. Education alone is insufficient to produce good results in fine conservation. Olek conserves milk paint , oil paints, Japanning, pietre dure or stone inlays, Oriental Lacquer or Coromandel, gesso and composition molded elements. Guidelines to follow in such work include:

 

  • •  Milk paint should have similar formulation to original



  • •  Japanning should be done with the same base of clay and whiting or other ingredients as used in the original furniture decorative finish



  • • Oriental Lacquer varnishes prepared with copal varnish and pigments matching original ingredients, for the same consistency and appearance as the original screen or decorative object



  • •  Parcel gold leaf is a technique used in China to create extraordinarily fine gilt detail in figural and scenic landscapes. First the ground was gilt, then the figures painted out around the gold leaf, leaving intricate gilt detail showing through the paint or lacquer that could not be done by gilding on top of the paint








Decorative Finishes Gallery




        Faux Finish-Ceramic Tile Repair                    Princeton College Prospect House Faux Finish



    American Queen Anne Period Japaned & Parcel Gilt Desk