Restoration of a Pair of English Rococo Mirrors
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The mirror shown above is one of a pair. The carving of both is almost identical, the only noticeable difference being that one of the birds faces left, the other right.
When they first arrived in my studio, they looked much different, as can be seen in the photo below.
Their present condition was very poor, and it was difficult to determine what their original finish might have been. At some point, there had been an attempt to give them a gilded appearance by applying a gold-colored paint. Usually these coatings are composed of metallic pigments (sometimes called bronze powders) in an oil medium, which over time typically tarnish to a dark, greenish-brown color, as was the case here. Also clearly visible was a red paint color, most likely a part of the intended gilding effect.
The first task was to attend to the structural repairs. The photos below illustrate just a few of the problem areas.
Some new parts were roughly carved and attached to replace the missing pieces; these were later finessed to blend in with the adjacent areas. A few of these are shown below.
With the frames structurally sound, we began the process of removing the paint layers down to the wood.
After cleaning, there were some traces of gesso visible but no other signs of previous water gilding, or any other finish that might be construed as original.
Detail after cleaning
It was decided to follow the client’s first inclination, which was to paint the mirrors white. Below are some detail photos of the final paint finish.