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This week in objects conservation we return to the 1740’s Rococo gilt table. Now clean, the next step in the treatment is to fill all of the losses in the gesso. Losses are filled both for aesthetic reasons and for stabilization. If left unfilled the rough edges around a loss are at risk of abrasion, resulting in further loss.
In gilt furniture the wood and gesso layers swell and contract differently to moisture levels in the air. When humidity rises or falls quickly, this can result in the gesso layer cracking and falling away, leaving losses in the gilt surface.
Museums maintain stable humidity levels to avoid losses like this from occurring once objects enter their collections. In order to repair the past damage, the losses will be filled with a conservation grade gesso and inpainted with mica pigments to match the surrounding aged gilding. In the photo you can see the lower carved leaf has a white fill on its left side and the start of an inpainted fill on the right side.