Laurent Hissier was born into a musical family in 1965, in Périgueux in the Dordogne in France. He began working at the Palace of Versailles in 1990 as a night security man. In the ten years that followed, he developed a deep fascination with the painted and gilded panels and furnishings that surrounded him on his nightly rounds.
In his spare time, between playing in various blues bands, Laurent began to practice painting small panels, teaching himself and figuring out the techniques and finishes that appealed to him so much.
On a visit to the gilding and restoration workshop in the palace to seek advice on a panel he was working on, Laurent met Daniel Sievert, the head of the restoration department, who freely shared his knowledge. During one of Laurent’s many visits, Mr. Sievert mentioned that he could do with an extra pair of hands and after applying for a transfer from the security department, Laurent began work as a gilder and painter in 2003. His duties included making pedestals and frames for works of art in the palace and restoring the existing furnishings, all under the watchful eye and tuition of Daniel Sievert, who trained him in the traditional gilding technique used throughout the palace.
In 2004, Laurent met Pierre Lefumat, who trained him in the techniques of marbling, faux stone and patina. Laurent published a book along with Daniel Sievert in 2011, ‘Gilding at Versailles’ which is an invaluable resource for anyone with an interest in the subject. When Daniel Sievert retired, Laurent was promoted to the position of head of gilding restoration.
After reading Laurent’s inspirational story on Pierre Finkelstein’s website, I contacted him online some years ago and a firm friendship developed. He is always very generous with his knowledge and here he takes us through his method for creating Vert de Mer, or sea green marble.
Sea Green Imitation – by Laurent Hissier
I use the technique of Acrylic and Oil on a black background. The materials required are as follows:
Palette: Chrome Oxide Green, Titanium white
Natural Sponge, Spalter medium, small, Twin head brush http://www.boesner.fr/pinceaux-art-du-faux/7364-leonard-chiqueteur-2-meches-petit-gris-3660599030276.html, Small pointed brushes, Badger
Palette: Green English 1, Ivory Black, Titanium white, Red Ochre, Prussian Blue, Blue overseas, Natural Siena, Bitumen
Badger, Spalter, Three strands or chiqueteur, sable brushes flat, sharp Brushes: medium and fine
Toothbrush, Glaze: 2/3 turpentine – 1/3 linseed oil, a few drops of dryers
Degrease the surface with whiting and a damp sponge
- Rinse and dry the surface
- Make a mixture of white and green and begin to glaze the surface with the sponge very lightly and soften with the badger
- With twin header start fundamental work with a slightly white glaze, and layout the marble.
- This work is long, varied; use sponge to break these veins and smooth.
- Wash the twin header before creating different shades.
- Gradually add white to the colour and continue.
- Make effects with small Spalters, sponge, soften
- Using fine brushes and always with the glaze begin to realize the veins of varying size.
- Create thicker veins in places
- Marble is built at this stage, think about making very light veins that will sometimes be chopped, cut, broken, etc.
- Vary how the brush is held.
- Mix bitumen with the oil glaze and achieve effects, soften
- Allow to dry
- Glaze the surface, spread well with a spalter
- Take white, green and repeat the same work as acrylic, sometimes on painted veins, sometimes not, using flat brush or pointed.
- Build colour always very gradually
- The direction of the grain may have a different meaning or overlapping with the veins made with acrylic.
- With a very dilute Prussian blue create subtle stones.
- Take a sable brush and work with the tip, alternating very thin veins and thicker.
- With another flat brush create black pebbles sparingly.
- Do the same thing but with pure white.
- Spatter with a toothbrush with a mixture of turpentine and pure white or slightly tinted, but also with pure black.
- Using the twin header, making a discreet cobblestone effect and only in places with red ocher
- Let dry and varnish
Some examples of sea green marble painted by Laurent Hissier
Laurent Hissier is currently working as a freelance gilder and decorative painter at the Articuci workshop in the south of France, and teaches courses in order to pass on his craft.
More details of Laurent’s work can be found here: Atelier Articuci