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.
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.
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.
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.