The primary purpose of any picture frame is to provide comprehensive support and stability to an artwork. Therefore, if an artwork is susceptible to damage, it is often the frame that will first bear the brunt of the injury.
It is not unusual for an enquiry to come into the studio for a frame that has been damaged, perhaps when an artwork has fallen off the wall, but the painting itself is unharmed. Acting as a protective guard for your artwork can create some wear and tear for a frame. We have set out below some common causes that require frame restoration.
For artworks that have been displayed for a long time without being cleaned, the build-up of dust and dirt can be substantial, both over the artwork and frame. Gentle cleaning can remove the contaminants, particularly those hidden in the intricate decoration of the frame. Cleaning can also begin to bring back the original vibrancy of the frame, so it retains both a functional and aesthetic appeal.
If your artwork has been heavily impacted by another object, perhaps after falling off a wall or damaged during transit, some often-seen consequences involve the splitting of the wooden frame. This will happen often at the corners where the joint is most vulnerable. If this happens, it will not be possible to safely hang artwork without it being at risk from falling, or from damaging the frame and painting further. We can repair any splitting in the wood and strengthen the joints to ensure that it is safe for the painting to be reinstalled without future risk.
Similar to splitting of the wood, cracks can appear as a sign of damage or wear and tear if the frame is of an age. The cracks can be thoroughly cleaned to remove any dust and dirt that may have become trapped, before being filled and stabilised. Deep cracks within a frame can look unsightly, and they are also more likely to develop and cause decoration on the frame to be lost.
Lost or damaged decoration
One of the most frequent requirements of frame conservation is to restore ornate and complex decoration that has been lost or damaged. In many cases, the missing decoration can be immediately evident when comparing either side of a symmetrical frame. We can remould lost or damaged decorative areas to achieve a seamless integration between the original frame and the new moulding, with the ultimate aim being that is is impossible to notice the decoration is recently added.
We will make a full inventory of all of the missing areas, and replicate the unique pattern of the frame from an intact area with similar decoration. Once all areas are remoulded, we will patinate the new decoration and detailing to suit the style and age of the rest of the frame. You can find out more about how we re-mould the missing details and decoration of a picture frame in this detailed FAQ.
Loss of paint and gilding
Over time, through wear and tear, environmental factors and moving, frames can become faded and lose their original vibrancy. Depending on the original material used if a frame has been painted or gilded, frames can look worn and uncomplimentary next to an artwork. As with lost decoration, paint loss can also occur if a painting has been scratched or damaged.
The centuries-old process of applying gold can be applied to frames for an ornate finish using 23.5 carat leaf. The frame will then have a suitable ageing effect applied to maintain uniformity with the artwork and style of the frame. If your frame has been previously painted and now has some losses, we can carefully pigment match against the original paint to provide a seamless and smooth finish.
Woodworm and insect infestations
For wooden frames of a certain age, woodworm and other insect infestations can occasionally be a troubling development. If artwork has been stored somewhere cold and damp, for example in a shed or garage, these are perfect conditions for woodworm to thrive. Woodworm can cause significant damage and are visible as small holes. If the infestation is active, there will be fine wooden powder around the holes.
We can exterminate any active infestations and fully decontaminate any affected areas. Where there is severe damage, we can repair cracks, fill any chips in the wood, and remould lost or missing decoration.