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  • Writer's pictureGordon R. Johnston

Frame Restoration and Repair

The conservation and restoration of frames is the process through which they 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 frames is two-fold; they function to protect and support the artwork as well as to visually enhance the piece. Frames help us appreciate and understand its role as it relates to the history of the painting. Original frames are often considered museum objects in their own right. As such, frames are subject to wear and tear in their functional roles as a protective component of the artwork. Regular activities that require the handling of artwork and their frames, such as exhibition, storage or travel, leave the frame susceptible to damage and must therefore be treated.

Beaux Arts Parlour Mirror Frame; Bridge Restoration.

Lost or damaged ornamentation may need to be replaced. It is not uncommon to see ornamentation that has been inappropriately re-adhered by past restorations which would include unoriginal elements. Depending on the type of ornamentation and the extent of the damage, elements may need to be re-carved or possibly 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 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 possible gilding or inpainting.

Final touch up + Fitting

This 18th Century Parlour Mirror is a good example of Beaux Arts Architecture. It had fallen from the wall due to poor wiring on the back. The screw eyes were fine threaded and should have been more course considering the softness of the frame given its age and material.

All five piece ( legs ) were taken apart with great care, assembled and re-mitred for a new glue-up. New technologies with lacquers, adhesives and glue with invisible joinery makes this piece strong, but it will also last for another five generations.


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