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The Polychrome Process

The Polychrome Process

At Artisans Angkor, polychrome refers to the painting ornamentation of wooden statues, followed by a gilding process. The Parthenon in Athens displays one of the earliest examples of polychrome decoration. A polychrome statue of Lady Penh can also be seen in a shrine of Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh.

Sizing

Seven layers of sizing, a natural surface filler, are applied by the craftsman or woman in order to have a smooth surface. Each time a layer of sizing is applied, the carved motifs on the wooden statue or the embossed details have to be redone. The more a wooden statue is sophisticated and detailed, the longer it will be for the artisan to work on it. This is a time-consuming process as it would need to be done seven times, allowing the necessary drying time between each layer.

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Painting and Gilding

The next step is to apply colors with painting. It will give the craft a unique aspect as different colors can be applied this way, such as brown and red for wooden statues. In order to give the statue a golden aspect, copper or golden leaves can be gilded. Craftsmen will directly put the leaves on the statue with their hands and they need to do so with a perfect timing so that the leaves will stick to the statue thanks to the varnish. This process also requires very advanced skills.

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Varnishing

The final step is to apply varnish to protect the statue and patina in order to give it an ancient look. Large polychrome pieces could take over 2 months to realize.

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