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  • Frame Repair: A Study in Patience

    The art: A gilded frame (Part 2)

    The restoration: Frame repair is usually complicated, and that certainly held true here. The frame came to us badly damaged. There were missing segments of the sculpted ornamentation and a number of others that were broken. The original gilding was severely worn and soiled, too.

    Our first step was reproducing the damaged and missing segments. Hand-made moulds were filled with a plaster composite, which, once they hardened, were affixed to the frame. The edges between the new ornamentation and the original were then carefully blended.

    Next, we painted the frame black, a move that was intended to mimic the appearance of bole. (There are two kinds of gilding, water and oil. We used the latter here, so we only wanted to mimic the bole, which features in water gilding.) The frame was then covered with a size, an adhesive that's used to affix the gold, silver, or metal leaf. The size needs to dry in order to achieve the proper tackiness, so, following a planned layoff, we started applying the gold leaf with a gilder's tip, which is a brush that's usually made from squirrel hair. With the gilder's tip, you pick up the gold leaf and apply it to the size. Then it's tamped down to ensure that it adheres. Any breaks, known as "holidays," are filled in last. It's a tedious process, but one that never fails to impress in the end.

    We painted the gold leaf with an antiquing solution, adding special emphasis to the recesses in an effort to mime a natural aging. For the final step, we covered the frame in a coat of a casein-based solution. A time-ravaged frame finds new life—as an older looking frame. The kind that ages really well though.