Gessoes in Portuguese Baroque gilding grounds, part 1: A study of historical documentary sources

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Isabel Pombo Cardoso; Elizabeth Pye;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 62, Number 4, p.185-209 (2017)


The surviving gilded and polychrome altarpieces and sculptures in Portuguese churches, and the historical documents relating to them, offer an opportunity for understanding material and technological choices regarding gesso grounds. This paper focuses on the historical documentary research about gessoes — one aspect of a wider research project which also involved investigation of physical/chemical evidence, and archaeological reconstructions of gilded gesso grounds. Documentary research sheds light on the meaning of the terms used in historical documents, and on artists’ choice of materials and practices, production, and trade patterns of materials. It informs technological investigations and conservation decisions. The paper also stresses the importance of the evidence gained by using the historical and archaeological methodology applied in material culture studies, in which documentary, analytical, and experimental information complement and/or elucidate each other, leading to a comprehensive understanding of this technology.