Expert finds inspiration for upcoming preservation conference in Natchez

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

In Natchez earlier this week, Walters visited Rosalie, Stanton Hall, Green Leaves and Cottage Gardens, where her special interest was looking at mirrors and frames with gold leaf finishes.

Walters and her partner, Vidalia, La., native Kay Crothers Merritt, own Mississippi Gold Leaf and Painted Finishes of Clarksdale. Both will participate in the Natchez conference, with Walters presenting information on gilt antiques and frames and Merritt, information on and a demonstration of applying Italian plaster.

The conference, sponsored by the Pilgrimage Garden Club and Natchez Pilgrimage Historical Association, will be Sept. 16-18, following the theme, &uot;Keeping the Home Fires Burning.&uot;

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Programs will center on the Southern hearth, fireplace and mantel and will be given by authorities on architectural history, design, restoration and preservation.

&uot;It was such a treat for me to examine the Natchez frames closely,&uot; Walters said. &uot;When you tour the homes, you don’t get behind the ropes as I did on this trip. I’ll use the photographs I made to relate the program to Natchez.&uot;

Many of the frames she saw had the tell-tale brownish look that she has seen before. &uot;All of the frames probably were oil gilded and water gilded in 22-carat gold leaf,&uot; she said.

&uot;Over the years, they were wiped with a damp cloth, which damaged the finish. Some have been painted over with gold paint that oxidizes because of other metals in it.&uot;

From house to house, she became excited at the furnishings as well as the frames holding paintings or mirrors. &uot;I also saw some silver leaf frames. People didn’t even know they had silver leaf frames,&uot; she said. &uot;You forget what a rich history we have in Natchez.&uot;

At Green Leaves, she enjoyed the family history as well as the period history, she said. And at Cottage Gardens, she especially enjoyed the tour by owner Jerold Krouse.

&uot;I really enjoyed having Mr. Krouse show me his beautiful period furnishings and enlighten me on them,&uot; she said.

She viewed frames of many styles and types, she said. &uot;I will specifically identify styles of frames in the lecture, and I would like to educate participants to appreciate what they have.&uot;

Gold leaf became popular as a finish for frames because it is reflective, Walters said. &uot;The gas light or candle light would reflect on the gold leaf and illuminate the painting or mirror.&uot;

Walters and Merritt have a combined 34 years of experience in painted finishes, restoration and conservation of gilt antiques and frames and exterior gilding.

In recent years, they have taken up the art of Italian plaster.

Others on the program for the September conference are Anne Marie Quette, Versaille Palace lecturer; Dr. Eugene Cizek, professor of architecture at Tulane University; David Spurk, designer, of Jackson; Malcolm Robson, faux bois artist of Memphis, Tenn.; Todd Sanders, architectural historian, Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Marilynn Jones and Jean Schott of the Manship House Museum in Jackson; Duncan Morgan, master brick mason, of Natchez; Cheryl Branyan, architectural historian and curator, Historic Jefferson College; and John G. Burns, designer, of Atlanta, Ga., formerly of Natchez.

More information about the conference is available by calling toll free 866-410-4420.