Antiques guide: how to care for antique frames

Keep old picture frames tidy and clean with these handy tips

The corner of an ornate gild frame

Often valuable works of art in their own right, picture frames are essential to the wow factor of a painting. Gilding them was traditionally a way of enhancing the light on the painting. Most gilded frames are made from wood with relief decoration formed from carved wood or applied moulded decoration. On gilded frames, the wood is typically covered in a white chalky base known as gesso, before a coloured ground made from clay (bole), paint or varnish and then gold leaf are applied. Heat, humidity and movement can damage picture frames, causing joints to open, decoration to chip or the gilded surface to deteriorate. Seek professional advice if there is serious damage to an elaborate frame. But it isn’t hard to find attractive, inexpensive vintage frames languishing in junk shops, auctions and boot fairs. Once dirt and minor damage have been dealt with, they can easily be reused.

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You Will Need

  1. Rubber gloves
  2. Vacuum cleaner
  3. Soft artist’s brushes
  4. Cotton buds
  5. Soapy water
  6. Soft cloths
  7. Liberon Retouch Cream (liberon.co.uk)

 

Use a very soft artist’s brush to gently sweep over the surface and dislodge dust and dirt.

 

Vacuum carefully without touching the surface, using the smallest nozzle on a very gentle setting (place a filter over the nozzle to prevent any loose pieces being lost).

 

Use a cotton bud to work over indented areas and crevices to remove any remaining dirt. Work slowly and use a little soapy water if necessary, but be sparing as this can damage water gilding. Dry carefully with a cotton bud or soft cloth immediately.

 

Apply Liberon Retouch Cream, or a similar product, with a soft cloth or brush to conceal small imperfections and leave to dry.

 

Buff the surface with a soft cloth to finish.