Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Model of Napoleon’s Coach Receives the Royal Treatment

In 1931 the General Motors International Craftsman’s Guild was established by the Fisher Body Division of General Motors to support youth craftsmanship. They sponsored a national Napoleonic Coach contest to build an exact working model to scale of Napoleon’s Royal Coach he and Princess Marie Louise of Austria rode in for their wedding.

Judges awarded the two best coach-makers in each state with an all expense paid trip to Detroit and $50 in each winner’s pocket. One of those First Place winners was 15 year old Emmett Day from Texas.

I was very pleased to meet Mr. Day in later years and to have the opportunity to gild this intricately assembled miniature replica, so painstakingly crafted from blueprints during his youth. Today this Coach resides in the President’s house at Mr. Day’s alma mater, Texas A&M University-Commerce.

The Coach had already been painted many years ago and therefore the oil gilding method was quickly decided upon with the choice of 24kt Manetti gold leaf. The existing painted surfaces still provided appropriate sealing of all wood surfaces so the oil size would rest on top of the surfaces to be gilded. Very small brushes were used to apply the size while equally small pieces of gold leaf were cut and used to decorate each element. Extreme care was needed to safely guard against staining any of the applied velvet cushions or brocade work with the oil size or shellac which was applied to the leaf to protect against minimal handling and to add warmth to the glow of the gold leaf.

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