Frames are both functional items and decorative objects with artistic value. They are integral to the presentation of the object, but they must enhance the artwork without overpowering it and secure it safely. They are often redecorated, modified or replaced, and vulnerable to damage during handling and transport.
Frames are often more complex than they appear, and their preservation depends on proper care and treatment. Antique frames are traditionally made of gesso and carved wood and then gilded. All frames are vulnerable to the same forces of deterioration that may threaten the artwork they are meant to protect.
Dry cleaning a frame is the most common and significant step in frame conservation. It should be done regularly to prevent dust build up. Small chips and cracks in a frame or delamination of paint or gilding on a frame’s surface is often treated using infilling and in-painting.
Large areas of loss can be restored by creating molds from another intact part of the frame that resembles the missing portion, or sculpting free-hand. Reconstructed elements of the ornament then need to be colored to match and attached.
Reframing is an important part of the frame conservation process. Often, older framing methods can be damaging to an art work. For instance, metal parts corroding, adhesive tape damaging the surface of a frame and acidic backing board or mounting materials. Eliminating some of these hazards can be undertaken by replacing damaging materials with conservation-grade, archival alternatives.