Gilt-Bronze

The mechanical technique of gilding, whereby thin layers of gold foil are used to coat materials such as bronze by laying or shaping the thin gold over the underlaying surface, has been in use since approximately the third millennium B.C. with examples from Egypt and the near east. The layers of gold foil are burnished together to remove the appearance of seams but the technique is improved with the use of thinner gold and a form of adhesive. Gold leaf of ancient artefacts tend to be much thicker than that of today but by the medieval period greater technological advancement in hammering gold allowed for thinner leaf to be produced. The production of thin leaf is dependent on the purification of gold, gold refining dating to around 2000 BC in Mesopotamia. The hammering of refined gold is also a challenging craft, an Egyptian funerary papyrus of Neferronpet of the 14th century BC describes Neferronpet as the “chief of the makers of thin gold”. Examples of gilded bronze sculpture can be found in Greece and many other cultures. The development of leaf allowed for greater adhesion to the bronze than the thicker foil by the use of heat which causes partial melting of the gold, known as fire gilding.