Condition of frame on acquisition
This eighteenth-century framed portrait was acquired by the Gallery in 2013. The overall condition and visual appearance of the frame at the time of acquisition were poor due to several deteriorated restorations.
The Frame Conservation Team at the Gallery proposed potential treatment options for discussion with the Curatorial Team. The primary aim would be to re-establish the original integrity and appearance of the carving and decorative scheme, which had been obscured by a thick layer of gesso (preparatory chalk) and discoloured bronze pigments.
After undertaking initial analysis and tests, the treatment began by carefully removing the unsightly layers of restoration, revealing the original material beneath and significantly improving the definition of the carving. However, little of the original gilding remained and some areas of the original gesso had been lost, which may explain why the frame had been restored. An isolation layer was applied before any new materials were added to ensure that new additions could easily be reversed in the future. The losses to the surface were filled by building up traditional gesso layers.
A layer of yellow bole (pigmented clay) was prepared, matching the colour to the original scheme. This was applied before the surface was re-gilded using 23.5 Ct gold leaf.
The four existing shells at each corner were not original to the frame. Suitable replacements were extensively researched, and carved in lime wood by a City and Guilds Conservation student as part of a work experience opportunity.
The final stage of treatment was to distress the gilded surface lightly and apply layers of pigment to create a suitable tone that would ensure the frame would harmonise with the pastel and other works displayed alongside it.
Left - The obscured decorative surface. Right - Following the removal of subsequent layers
Carving the first replacement corner motif
Throughout the treatment, every effort was made to maintain, where possible, all remaining original material whilst providing an aesthetically improved and structurally stable frame.
Claire Irvine, Frame Conservator
Project generously funded by
The Elizabeth Cayzer Charitable Trust
Treatment Undertaken by Claire Irvine, Frame