After I was deep into this series on collecting and displaying art, I realized that the current issue of Country Living includes a beautifully produced story on the 104-year-old frame-making Senelar atelier in Hazebrouck, France. American-based Larson Juhl aquired the old family business in 1995, but the frames are still crafted using a traditional water-gilding process developed during the Renaissance.
Water-gilded frames first receive fine layers of gesso which are sanded by the craftsman to a porcelain-smooth finish. Next, numerous coats of colored clay are applied -- hues typically include red, yellow, black, brown or blue. This is what gives the final layer of gold leaf its color, as the gold is rubbed in such a way that the undercoat shows through.
Today the atelier offers frames gilded in 22-karat gold, as well as options with gold-colored metal leaf. Prices range from $20 to $225 per foot. In Atlanta, the framing shop at Sam Flax is one place to go to see water-gilded moldings, including Larson Juhl products. But you will also find other recession-friendly options there.
The V & A has put together a short video that demonstates historic methods of water-gilding. Country Living photographs are by Beatriz da Costa.