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Wood Gilding Studio: Christine Mathieu

Restoration of a reliquary in gilded wood. The missing primer was re-created using rabbit-skin glue and whiting.


The products and movements used have remained unchanged throughout the centuries.
Resin is excluded from my activities since it reacts very badly with the wood support and the rabbit-skin glue mixture.

Products Used

- Rabbit-skin glue: It comes in sheets, or in granulated form, or as powder. When mixed with water and heated in a double boiler, it is the base for all the stages of gilding. It is rich in collagen and reacts very well to the wood’s hygrometric variations.

- Whiting: This is chalk that is mixed with glue and used to prepare the surface for the finish and the ornaments to be reconstituted.

- Armenian bole or plate: A very fine red clay that mixes with light glue. It is the last layer before applying the gold leaf, and allows the leaf to be polished with an agate stone, giving it an incomparable brilliance.

- The gold leaf: It comes in little books of silk paper that contain 25 leaves, 8 cm by 8 cm. I use 22 carat gold, but I can use a richer carat gold, on order.

- Applying the gold: The gold leaf is placed in a cushion of inside-out skin. It is cut with a special knife and picked up with a brush called the pallet. I put a little fat on my arm to catch it in the cushion. The Plate is moistened with water and a small wet brush. The glue thus revived, the gold sheet is swallowed up in the primer.
After drying for eight hours, it will be polished with agate stone to give it a sparkling brilliance.

Restoration of a reliquary in gilded wood.