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Restoration of a 19th century picture frame

This frame, complete with the painting, had fallen off the wall. Fortunately, the painting suffered no damage in the fall. The frame, on the other hand, broke apart completely. Our patient in this case is a wooden 19th-century French picture frame with plaster ornaments. The twin borders of the frame were connected at the corners and mitres with half lap joints and screws. The main ornament with the leaf motifs floats in between and is connected to the inner and outer frame borders. The high-gloss burnished gilding was of high quality and in good condition.

When the frame arrived, it was accompanied by a box containing the broken, loose ornaments. We used them as the basis for the restoration work and reconstruction of the frame. The first task was to check the structure (the wooden parts) and apply bone glue in two places. The wood itself was still completely serviceable. We sorted the ornaments sent in the box and laid them out around the frame in the positions where they needed to be placed. The ornaments were then put back, piece by piece and one by one.

Much of the material was still usable, but there were gaps that we had to fill with new ornaments. We still make these ornaments in the atelier, in the original and traditional manner. The base material consists of chalk, animal glue and four other ingredients. After shaping the ornaments, they were placed in the right position and left to dry. Then they were cut down to the right size and glued with rabbit skin glue.

Further reconstruction and repairs to the gilding were done with 23 carat gold. Partly burnished to a high gloss, with the deeper areas treated to achieve a matte finish. After application of the final patina stain, the restored areas are indistinguishable from the original gold. A very successful restoration in other words.


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