We recently conserved a late 18th c. carved and gilded European picture frame for a painting by Gilbert Stuart of Maj. Gen. Charles Rainsford. Our challenge was to conserve this frame rather than restore it. Conserving it made the necessary repairs while maintaining as much of the original gold work intact as possible. We had to consolidate the gesso which had extensive craquelure and would continue disintegrating if left untended. We recarved many outer elements which were broken and missing. Matching the gold to the original was a challenge as gold color changes in the light. I had to move the frame around the studio several times at different times of day under different lighting conditions until I was satisfied with the color of gold leaf to match the original.
I love working on antique picture frames. This project wasn’t without its challenges, but I was very pleased with how well our efforts worked to bring this frame back to its deserved state and with proper care, it should last for centuries to come.
We received this commission through a painting conservator so, unfortunately, we weren’t able to photograph the frame with the painting installed. I would have liked to have done this for reference sake. I wanted to know if the portrait of Maj. Gen. Rainsford was painted with an oval opening or if the spandrel was added in the 19th century for aesthetic reasons. I’m not certain this frame is original to the portrait. While it is of the period (the spandrel is later), it is a frame style more often seen on portraiture by John Singleton Copley. Some mysteries are left unsolved…
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