Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Frame It!

More often than not, I am drawn to the frame on a mirror or painting before I even look at what it is holding. I'll oooh and aaah at the frame, noticing its gilding or painted finish and then proceed to look at the painting. 

I love the art of the frame.

The frame stands there as the painting's support. 
It lends importance and structure to a painting. 
It offers protection as well. 

Frames have mainly been used since the fifteenth century. Most often they are made of wood, often gilded with gold or silver leaf. Painted frames are also common.

Here a frame is in the process of being repaired. Compo ornaments (a pliable substance that includes chalk which has been pressed into a mold) has been added and will be later gilded.

Gilding the frame follows a lengthy process that has changed little since the seventeenth century.  After applying a coat of rabbit skin glue, many layers (usually 4-8) of gesso are applied to create the smooth bed for the gold or silver. Gesso consists of chalk (or marble dust), water and rabbit skin glue. It is warmed before applying and must be layered as the previous application turns "leathery". 

A bin of finely powdered chalk 

After the gesso has dried, several layers of bole (fine grained clay plus RSG) are brushed on. Several colors of clay are available, including red, yellow, black or brown; the bole determines the color effect that the gold leaf will have. The bole is then polished with a horsehair cloth, never sanded, as the marks would telegraph right through the gold leaf- not an attractive proposition.

The atelier of De Roo Lijstenmalers in Haarlem, the Netherlands

The gold leaf is then very carefully applied. I'll continue the story in Frame It! Part Deux

In the meantime,enjoy the art of the frame!

 Gold leaf has been applied and is awaiting the burnishing and patination.

Perfectly patinated

Silver leaf has been used here.

White-washed frames

Or, you can just paint the frame on the wall! 
Your choice of color.

** Update
Back on March 10, 2011, I posted a a review of Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland, here.
For those of you who love Tiffany glass, you have an exciting opportunity to view over 45 of Tiffany's stained glass lamps at the Biltmore. The special exhibit runs from July 1, 2011 through January 31, 2012. Many of Clara Driscoll's creations can be seen there.


  1. How I agree Annie. The art of the frame maker has, too often, been overlooked. However, in many cases, the frame might be more valuable than the art it supports.


  2. Gorgeous frames. They make a statement on their own. I wish I had the patience and time to gild. Unfortunately this art appears to be vanishing. Have a lovely weekend Ann.



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