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Treatment of the frame

conservator working on the frame

Applying gesso to the frame of 'Man of War in a Harbour', one rail at a time

Lengths of close weave linen were cut to fit the width of the top and left rail rebates. The strips of linen were then soaked quickly in hot rabbit skin glue and then stuck in place and left to dry as this would immediately add strength to the weakened rebates. Bronze paint was removed from the corners leaves.

A thin section of timber was cut and glued into place along the sight of the right rail. Excess dust was removed with a soft brush and vacuum. The surface of the frame was then consolidated with a hot solution of rabbit skin glue that would prevent any further loss of gilding.

Gesso was then applied to the surface with a small brush. Gesso putty (which is a thicker consistency to gesso) was applied to the outer edges.

The gesso on the carved moulding was then carefully sanded down using graduating grades of sand paper to achieve a smooth surface. The outer edges were also sanded down to create a smooth surface.

The prepared gesso along the gadrooned top was moulded then had yellow wet bole/clay applied. The gesso in-fills to the acanthus and shell also had the yellow clay applied over the gesso. Red clay was applied to the highest point of the acanthus and shells. The highest points of the shells were then water gilded.

Once the bole was dry and smoothed with worn sand paper a thin covering of oil size was applied and left to dry for three hours or until it no longer felt tacky. Loose gold leaf was then used to cover the oil sized areas.

Gilding the entire frame took approximately five hours over two days as each leaf of gold had to be cut into very small pieces. The freshly gilt in-fills were left for a number of days before it was feathered and blended in with the existing gilt surface. Each bright gold section was then toned or coloured with water colours to match the existing surface finish.

The extreme outer edges were coloured with yellow ochre.