What Is Frame Restoration?

If you have an antique picture frame or any picture frame that you want to preserve, you will likely need to put the picture frame through the conservation and restoration process at some point. This process consists of not only cleaning the frame but also repairing the frame by replacing parts of the frame, such as toning, damaged ornamentation, and gilding. It may also involve reversing previous repairs and stabilizing the frame.

It is essential that the conservation and restoration process is done correctly as picture frames can sometimes be considered pieces of art themselves rather than only existing to protect a painting.

Damage and Deterioration

However, since frames are used to protect other artwork, they can easily sustain a considerable amount of wear and tear or even damage over time. There are actually a number of things that can cause damage to the frame or just cause them to deteriorate over time, such as:

  • Changes in Temperature and Humidity: These changes can cause splitting or warping or other structural damage to the picture frames. When this type of damage occurs, there is a risk that any mishandling could result in loss of ornamentation.
  • Material Related Risk: Some damage or deterioration of a frame may simply be due to the material used for the frame. For example, metal might rust, or wood could warp.
  • Pollution: Air pollution can also cause damage to paintings even though they are kept indoors.
  • Adhesives: Animal glue is often used to hold older frames together, and this type of glue is vulnerable to humidity or temperature changes. Additionally, adhesives can deteriorate over time.
  • Delamination: If a frame is gilded or painted, delamination may occur. This occurs when moisture gets into the frame through a crack in a painted or gilded frame. Then, the support becomes weakened, resulting in painted or gilded layers starting to lift.

Conservation and Restoration

There are a number of steps that can be taken to conserve or restore a frame, and below are some of the more common steps taken by conservators as part of the conservation and restoration process.

  • Assess the Frame. The first step a conservator is likely to take is to assess the frame to evaluate any damage to the frame and decide what treatment is required.
  • Evaluate Cleaning Methods. They may also test various cleaning methods on a small part of the frame to see which method is the safest and most effective.
  • Dismantle the Frame. The conservators may decide to take the frame apart to see how the frame was constructed and look at any damaged ornamentation, so it can be repaired or replaced.
  • Replacing Missing Ornamentation: Any ornamentation that is missing will likely need to be replaced. It is also possible that any poor replacements or repairs of previously missing ornamentation may need to be removed and replaced by skilled recreations of the ornamentation. After this is done, if the frame is gilded, the gesso layer will need to be reapplied and stabilized with hot rabbit skin glue.
  • Gilding and Toning: After the gesso layer is taken care of, the frame’s bole layer should be assessed to determine the gilding process that was used. This would likely be one of the two more common gilding processes, which are oil gilding and water gilding. Once this is determined, the in-gilding process can occur. After the gold leaf is added, toning will be done to match the gold on the original frame.
  • Creating a Replica: In some cases, a frame cannot be repaired, and an authentic replica may need to be created. If this is necessary, the conservators will match it as closely as possible.

Final Thoughts

Frames can deteriorate or become damaged over time. In some cases, these frames may be just as valuable as the paintings they protect. But, it is often possible to restore these frames so that they can be used and appreciated for many more years to come.

Contact Us

For frame restoration and conservation, contact Manzi Appraisers & Restorers. Our custom framing professionals have experts ready to help restore and preserve your valuable frames. Call us to schedule an appointment at 617-948-2577 and connect with us on Facebook.