Timeless Techniques: Treating a Gilded Mirror


The Center's Gilding Department specializes in the preservation of frames and objects with gold, silver, and metal leaf applied to the surface. A wonderful example of the type of projects our Gilding Conservators frequently undertake recently came to us in the form of a mirror in need of conservation.

To watch a video of the conservation process from start to finish, click the image below:

The mirror's frame was composed of wood, plaster, gesso, bronze paint, and gold leaf. The frame exhibited open miters, and there were splits and breaks in the wood. The piece exhibited gesso and gilding losses, moderate abrasions, scratches, and dents throughout. The finish appeared to be original to the frame, and the frame exhibited areas of bronze powder restorations. There was a moderate layer of grime and scattered accretions on the surface, and the backing board exhibited a layer of particulates. The backing board was non-archival and acidic.

Our conservators began their treatment by stabilizing the miters. Next, splits and breaks in the wood were repaired with the appropriate conservation adhesives. The flaking gesso and gilding were then consolidated, and the frame was mechanically cleaned. Next, our conservators minimally solvent cleaned the frame. Areas of abrasions and scratches were inpainted to emulate the surrounding surface, and new losses were filled, ingilded, and inpainted.


The areas of bronze powder restorations were removed, gilded, and toned. The restorations were then patinated, and a protective layer of wax was applied to the surface. Lastly, the hanging hardware was replaced and a coroplast backing board was attached to the reverse to provide additional protection.

After Treatment

After Treatment