Frame Restoration & Repair

Frame Repair, Reconstruction & Restoration

The conservation and restoration of painting frames is the process through which picture frames are preserved. Frame conservation and restoration includes general cleaning of the frame, as well as in depth processes such as replacing damaged ornamentation, gilding, and toning.

The purpose of painting frames is two-fold. Frames function to protect and support the artwork as well as to visually enhance the item.[1] Painting frames help us to appreciate and understand its role as it relates to the history of the painting.[2] Original frames are often considered museum objects in their own right.[3] As such, frames are subject to wear and tear in their functional roles as a protective component of the art.[4] Regular activities that require the handling of artwork and their frames, such as exhibition, storage, travel, leave the frame susceptible to damage.[4]

Replacement of Ornamentation & Guilding

Lost or damaged ornamentation may need to be replaced. It is not uncommon to see ornamentation that has been clumsily re-adhered by past restorations that include unoriginal elements. Depending on the type of ornamentation and the extent of the damage, elements may need to be recarved by a master carver, recast in plaster, or infilled with a reversible gesso. One common material used in the recreation of ornamentation is composition, a mixture of animal glue, resin, linseed oil, and venetian turpentine.

Once major ornamentation elements have been repaired, it is necessary in a gilded frame to reapply and stabilize the flaking gesso layer with hot rabbit skin glue. Once major structural treatments have been performed and the gesso layer stabilized, it is necessary to assess the bole layer of the frame. Bole is a mixture of coloured clay, glue size, and fat, which is applied on the frame as a base coat for the gilding. Typically, the bole layer, which is either red or gray, is revealed in the points of contact of the frame where the gilding has worn off. The color of the bole layer must be closely matched to that of the original bole, as the bole affects the overall tone of the frame.

It is essential to determine which gilding process was used before proceeding with the in-gilding process. The two common gilding processes are water gilding and oil gilding. The difference in the two processes is in adhesive coating base. Water gilding is the traditional, more difficult method, which must be cleaned using a mineral spirit or denatured alcohol. Oil gilding can be cleaned with a mild water based soap solution.

Once the gold leaf has been applied, additional toning will be required to match the original gold. Toning is usually done by creating layers of colour made out of animal glue and watercolour paint.