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Restoration of Viennese Gilt Picture Frame Clock

Jeremy Woodoff

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I have posted this clock in the New Acquisitions forum and now have a question about restoration of the gilt finish. I have begun removing the gold overpaint and have found that the clock appears to have been gold leafed only in certain areas. The egg-and-dart molding and the narrow concave molding were definitely leafed over red clay. However, the wide band between these two does not seem to have been leafed. Under the later paint in this area, the finish is matte and appears also to be paint. Under the paint is a yellow clay or primer. It does not appear possible to remove only the top layer of paint, which is very thin, without affecting the bottom (original layer), which is also very thin. I may be left with the need to repaint the matte portions. The original gold leafed portions seem to be in good enough condition to retain as is, once the overpaint is removed.

Does anyone have a suggestion for a pre-mixed or custom mixed gold paint that will have a matte finish and a thin, smooth consistency? I have various bronze powders, but I'm not sure what to mix them with to achieve this finish.

There is also "shell gold," which is real gold powder mixed with gum arabic and formed into a tablet like watercolor paints. (It is available from www.talasonline.com.) It's expensive and I don't know that it would have been used for large areas like this, so I'm assuming the original finish on these matte areas was bronze paint.

Any thoughts or suggestions?
 

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Sooth

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Just a thought, but is it just possible that the clock case was done in a combination of Gold Leaf in both oil gilding and water gilding methods. It's my understanding that the two techniques were often mixed together to create a unique two tone gold effect. The oil gilding gives a very bright shiny brass (usually done over red clay) while the water gilding is more soft. Maybe they also used yellow ground to make it contrast even more.

I can't really picture this with painted sections on it, unless it was maybe black (ebonised) or faux finished (like faux stone or tortoise shell). But then again, Austrian clocks are not my specialty. Maybe it would be best to do a very thorough search of all the similar clocks you can find, and use them to compare. I'll see what I've got (if anything).
 

Jeremy Woodoff

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Sooth,

Thanks for the links. With those, I think I've exhausted all the images on the Web. It's very difficult to tell which ones have their original finishes. I've taken a few pictures of the work in progress, though photographing gilt objects is not easy. I've removed the gold paint from the left side of the frame, and in the first picture you can see the difference between that side and the top, which still has its gold paint. In the next two pictures, you can also see (maybe) the difference between the burnished areas (egg-and-dart and concave molding) and the center section. It's possible because of the different types of size used, the remover had a different effect. The matte gold would have used the yellow oil size while the burnished gold would use the red water size. The remover ate right through the matte gold and into the yellow size, down to the white gesso in places. It did not do this in the burnished gold areas. You may also be able to see faint vertical brush marks in the matte gold. You can see through these marks to the size, which leads me to think this is the original layer of gold. The combination of the way the remover acted and the brush marks suggest to me an original paint finish here.

The next pictures show a deep blue color at the inside edge of the pendulum opening and at the outer edge of the ornamental gilt dial surround. Since a number of the clocks on the Web have blue areas, I thought maybe these traces of blue paint on my clock meant that the center flat section on my clock was originally painted blue. I've found no further evidence of that yet, however.

Once the picture is open, it can be enlarged twice.
 

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Jeremy Woodoff

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After looking at the surface under 4-power magnification, I believe that the matte gold areas over the yellow size were in fact gold leaf. Probably the chemicals that remove the paint react with the oil-based size, whereas they do not react with the water-based red size under the burnished leaf. It is not too difficult to apply patent leaf over oil size, so I may end up re-doing at least the matte gold portions of the case. I believe the brush marks visible in the above photos are from application of the size.
 

laprade

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Jeremy, you might be able to burnish the matt gold. It would seem that whoever applied it, didn't burnish it.

In some delicate instances, we used to use small tight balls of knitting wool, even folded pieces of worsted cloth, to burnish gold in awkward places and small access areas.
 

Jeremy Woodoff

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Why do you say it wasn't burnished? Because it comes off so easily?

As I recall from my limited experience with leafing, gold on oil size is "burnished" as you say with cloth or cotton wool, mostly to smooth it and press it down, not to make it shiny. Leaf on clay size, on the other hand, is burnished with an agate burnisher to make it brilliant. Water gilding, I found, is very difficult; gilding on oil size is much easier. Fortunately, it looks as though any repair work on this clock will be limited to the latter.
 

laprade

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Jeremy, most gilding on gesso or such, is usually burnished and not left matt. The gesso, ofter terracotta in colour, is there to fill the grain and give a smooth surface for the leaf, so it can be burnished. The clock frame, is really no different than a quality picture frame, and I can't say that I have ever come across a "matt" gold finish as being intended, on such a piece.

The quality of the gilding depends on the number of layers of leaf: Robert Adam recommended up to five!
 

Dachl18

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Mar 23, 2006
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Both burnished gold and matt gold are used in gilding of such clock frames as a formative element. Red bole (red chalk) is taken as a substrate for burnished areas and yellow bole for matt areas. Moldings and carved wood are often highlighted making them shiny; the larger (background) areas are kept matt. Matt gilding is simply unburnished gold and is therefore more susceptible.

I have no practical experience in gilding but I have also a picture frame clock painted over with some kind of gold paint. Polished parts are seen only on some moldings. I wonder if I ever take the pains to remove to color and regild the clock.

Best,
Robert
 

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Jeremy Woodoff

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Robert,

Thank you. I agree with your assessment. Your clock is certainly one of the fanciest of this type I have seen.
 

Ansomnia

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It's just my opinion but I think if the contrasting-colour centre panels have clean and accurate coverage around the spandrels, swags and other decoration details, then I would suspect they were original colours.

It's much simpler for someone to just paint over everything when an original paintjob gets tired-looking. To do a really good paintjob on the centre panels with a contrasting colour requires a very steady hand and a heck of a lot of patience. So if the centre panels were ever repainted, they're more likely to have been repainted with a single colour.

I also feel the clocks with contrasting-coloured panels look nicer.


Michael