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Replacing Missing Ornaments on Period Picture Frames

Damaged frame, missing ornaments

The frame before – ornaments missing

Ornament replaced

The finished result

Most frames, we regard as “old” were crafted by hand.

Ornaments, made of “Compo” ( Gesso* with a dow like consistency), are adhered onto a wooden profile and then finished off with a water or oil gilding technique.

Over time, through changes in humidity and temperature, and the fact that wood moves/shrinks, these ornaments can crack.
In severe cases they loose contact with its wooden support, and fall off.

FRAME RESTORATION TOP RIGHT LARGE

Replacements are done by making a mould of an existing ornament, casting and fitting it.

If there are no existing ornaments remaining, one has to re-model the item entirely.

The material for replacements is mostly plaster of Paris.
In some cases one has to resort to more modern materials, like resin.

Different stages of frame restoration:

The corner ornament of a frame has broken off
IMG_4918 CATH FRAME 1

Fitting of reinforcing wires to support the replacement structure
IMG_4924 CATH FRAME 2

 

Fitting of replacement ornament
IMG_4930 CATH FRAME 3

Priming
IMG_5062 CATH FRAME 4

The fully fitted and retouched ornament
IMG_5078 VATH FRAME 5

*GESSO

Gesso is made of a variety of chalks mixed together with animal glue in a certain ratio.
This is a wet process and involves a quite a bit of warm water.

Recipes vary widely, depending on what kind and quality of chalks and glues are available.

Depending on its use and purpose the viscosity of the Gesso can range from liquid, like condensed milk, to the denseness of a dough like substance.

During the apprenticeship years of a gilder one develops a fine feel for what is required to make the perfect Gesso for whatever individual use and purpose.