Gold Leaf and Gilding

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Gold leaf, which is created by hammering gold into very thin sheets, is used to gild paintings, sculptures, and architectural details. In art, the use of gold leaf is perhaps most closely associated with the technique of “gold ground,” a process that involves applying gold leaf to a wooden panel and using a burnisher to create a resplendent shine. In the works of master painters Cimabue and Duccio in 13th-century Italy, where this technique emerged, the surface would then be embellished with incised lines and small, ornamental stamps, often visible in the halos of the deities depicted in the foreground of paintings in tempera paint. The technique became strongly associated with Christian art, and gold ground was often used on devotional objects like altarpieces. Other examples of gold leaf in art include Japanese works-on-paper, and the canvases of Gustav Klimt.

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