Frame Restoration by Manzi Appraisers & Restorers

In recent years awareness of the value of period frames as independent works of art in their own right has grown. As a result, many collectors, dealers, and curators have reassessed their views of the importance of conserving and preserving period frames. A key component of this is frame restoration which aims to restore period frames as closely as possible to their original form.

Frame restoration aims to clean, maintain, and conserve the frame’s structural support, decorative elements, and wooden substructure, all while causing minimal change to the appearance of the frame. Often consolidation of the wooden substructure is needed, including rejoining corners that have come loose, strengthening weakened connections, and repairing cracks and splits. While making these repairs, it is crucial to identify and conserve any evidence identifying the work’s original maker, such as inscriptions or labels.

Just as crucial as maintaining the support and substructure of the frame is preserving the surface decoration and ornamentation. In most cases, a frame’s surface decoration is composed of multiple layers applied over the structural support. In many cases, design elements have suffered damage or loss, and repairs must be performed by casting from existing areas and other techniques.

One area of particular attention is a frame’s gilded surface which often will need cleaning and repair while taking considerable care to prevent reactivating the original size or glue which was used to attach it. Often these pieces have been previously cleaned or dusted with a damp cloth which can cause rabbit skin glue in gesso or clay which is under the leaf to soften, releasing the gold leaf.

This can be seen on a number of older decorative gold gilt frames when the finish is becoming worn or has come off of the inside of the bottom’s edge as a result of frequent cleansing with damp rags or cloths. It is really best to clean by light vacuuming or with a soft, dry long-haired brush.

A lot of older gold-leafed frames have been rebuilt or at least touched up, which often causes them to become discolored over time. This causes the surface to look dull instead of having a bright gold appearance. But, an experienced conservator can often remove all or part of this overpaint, thus re-exposing much of the original finish. After this, the original patination needs to be reproduced as needed for the regilded parts of the frame, if possible.

Frame restoration is a crucial part of maintaining these works of art, and as with the restoration of paintings and other decorative objects, it should only be performed by professionals with a knowledge of the processes and historical background necessary to preserve their integrity.

Contact Us

When you contact Manzi Appraisers & Restorers for frame restoration services, our leading frame restoration experts will take the time to understand any unique considerations necessary to return the frame to its original form. Call us at 617-948-2577 to arrange an appointment for a frame restoration project, and connect with us on Facebook.