Restauration des dorures de la Chapelle Royale
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Restauration des dorures de la Chapelle Royale

We are currently
on the interior bays of the Royal Chapel
of the Palace of Versailles on the first level and we’re working to
restore and conserve the gilding on the interior facade. The entire exterior of the bay will be
re-gilded as new, the interior conserved. Each bay takes us about
four days to restore since it needs to be cleaned first
because of all the dust. The gold is almost black. Once it has been cleaned,
we remove the flakes pieces of paint
which are coming off. Then we fill in all the
gaps with special primers. Once the base is smooth
we will apply the gilding but only on affected areas. We will conserve
the old existing gold. The leaf is so fine it can float away
in the slightest current of air. If we are in a very well
ventilated area, or lots of people are passing, or there is air conditioning the application process becomes
very complicated for us. To perform this work you need to be meticulous,
to be quite sensitive to really try to match
the existing work, to be a good ‘make-up artist’. I’m currently gilding the bay
which was pasted yesterday, the gilding paste is an adhesive varnish
applied a few hours in advance which then dries. Here I’m removing dust
from the gold leaf. The gilding paste was applied yesterday
and we gilded it this morning and now we’re removing dust. Removing dust smooths the gold
and eliminates excess gold leaf remaining on the base. Here on this side it’s
one tenth of a micron thick. On the exterior facade it will be
two tenths of a micron thick. Gold leaf is thinner
than a hair, a few microns, so it’s very fragile. Just touching it
with your fingers will tear it. So you never touch gold,
even after application. It sticks very well in time
if you don’t touch it. We’re currently working on
the interior of the bays. We’re going to gild
the exterior of the bays and then we’ll work on
all the roof sections, all the lead parts
and the ornamentation. Anything not made from slate
is made from lead and the lead is gilded. What I like about
the craft of gilding is working on a building like this, having the chance to work
on the Royal Chapel, to re-gild its roof, is a
once in a lifetime experience.


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