Christeen Street Studios Weekly Blog
Welcome readers, and happy Monday to you. This week I want to talk about something specific, Gold. Well not just any thing Gold, but gilded. I hope that you recall last week’s post about a search for my personal style and after some contemplation; I realized Gilding is certainly a signature of mine. With such a realization I wanted to talk a bit more about Gilding and its long past.
Today we have more options when it comes to paint and media. Today we do not necessarily need gilding as Foiling and the use of foils have become increasingly popular and mainstream, and perhaps easier to use and more cost effective. However, Gilding paved the road for these other mediums. Let us not forget the trusty variations of gold colored pigments and paints we have available to us today that was not available when Gilding became known.
Some of the earliest findings of Gilding come from ancient Greece and the Egyptian reign as early as 2000 B.C. E. (Walker, 2019) Incredible right! Yes, we can even see some of those gilded pieces on display in Museums around the world. Pieces such as tombs, coffins, and sarcophagi of wood and metal were popularly covered in gold leaf in ancient Egypt, and in Greece, carved ivory Statues were adorned with gilded pieces and precious gemstones (Walker, 2019). In Egypt, there are even hieroglyphics depicting Goldsmiths making the leaf (Walker, 2019). Ancient Rome used gilding to embellish architecture. Moreover, this labor intensive process of hammering gold down to where it’s as thin as a sheet of foil has with stood the test of time, and according to Richard Walker of WaterGild Studios, that process has in large part stayed the same.
After gilding found its way to Rome, it thankfully spread throughout the world. China and other ancient Asian cultures took hold and began to gild porcelain, which was adopted in Europe by artisans and potters (Walker, 2019). Today gilding is a niche art form, one that requires patience and attention to detail. Practicing gilding today is perhaps easier than it ever has been, and of course, imitation leaf exists for those on a budget and with little skill.
I believe that gilding is still around today as everyone wants to have beautiful and lavish things; Gilding makes that possible. With some gold leaf sheets, size (the adhesive required to adhere the leaf to the surface) and a few tools, one can turn anything into something stunning, lavish, gold! Today we can pretty much apply gold leaf to anything, paper, porcelain, glass, wood, metal. If one really wanted to, they could gold leaf a rock… and what a beautiful rock it would be! It’s almost like taking an object, say a picture frame, and turning it into a piece of jewelry to adorn a wall. Lastly, gilding is not just for gold, many precious metals are turned into leaf today such as silver, platinum, and copper.
One may ask, with all the gold pigment and paints available today, why anyone would go through such a time consuming and labor intensive process to apply gold leaf to something, just paint it instead. However, the reason is clear, at least for me. Gold paint and pigment is not real gold, well there are some pigments out there that have real gold powder in them, but are a rare find for the everyday artist in the real world. Gilding something, as long as you’re using real gold leaf, not imitation, is making whatever your object is, real gold, and is widely available. The shine is more prevalent, the luster is more vivid, and of course the color saturation is pure as it is real gold, not a color. So perhaps it’s simply authentic. You like real gold in your jewelry, thus having real gold leaf is the same thing.
This blog is but a quick synopsis of gilding and its history. There are multiple techniques and methods used in authentic gilding, and the history is much more detailed than what I have shared with you today. None-the-less I continue to be fascinated by this ancient method and need to share it. Sometimes things last forever because that is just how good it is. Gilding is no different. It has been around for thousands of years and counting because although many through history replicate gilding, there is no duplicating it. Until next week readers! Christeen
Walker, R. (2019). Gilding History.WaterGild Studios.