Conservation and Restoration of Fine Furniture and Objects
The Conservation of a Moisture Damaged
Gilt Framed Mirror:
A Case Study
Moisture damaged gilt framed mirror

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Note: This piece has been abbreviated from a complete project assessment including Abstract, Introduction, Discovery, Assessment, and Treatment. The full article can be found in the Conservation & Design International Newsletter.

A gilded mirror was discovered in a wooden crate at private storage facility on the top floor of a warehouse building. A very attractive piece, the frame was silver-backed and surrounded in a classical revival motif dating to the early 20th century. Unfortunately, the owner found water leaking onto its crate, exposing the frame to moisture. Among multiple issues, moisture caused the natural hide skin glue used to apply the gold leaf to fail. Not only had portions of gesso and gold leaf detached, several areas of gilding lifted due to moisture exposure and environmental instability.

An in-depth treatment included:

  • Loose and lifting gesso and leaf were consolidated using rabbit skin glue. Because a stable surface was crucial for future integrity, glue was injected and brushed into all open gaps, cracks and separations
  • Areas of loss were filled with traditional gesso, a gypsum-based ground mixed with either rabbit skin or a parchment size. This process created the foundation for all other materials to be applied.
  • After an extensive preparation process, gold leaf was applied - 24-karat French leaf supplied by Wehrung & Billmeier Gold Leaf Company, a manufacturer of gilding materials since 1905. Leaf was laid on a cushion, cut, transferred to the surface of the frame with a gilders tip, and finally applied to the frame.

In the end, treatment corrected moisture damage while adding to overall consistency of color and tone. After a diligent restoration process and application of wax, the now-stabilized frame was beautifully returned to its original luster and patina.

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