What can a framework do?

Lea Kämpf

A restored or an unrestored frame can change the appearance of a painting to a greater extent than we may be aware of at first.

A picture typically comes with a frame. It completes the work and they are displayed or hung up this way. But they can also compliment the work. A richly ornamented gilded frame, for example, places an unimpressive painting in a stronger focus than a simple, unadorned frame. It visually enhances the painting. Frames can therefore also influence the appearance of a work of art. In addition to the choice of the size, material, shape and decoration of a frame, the state of preservation also influences the appearance of a painting. Thus, an unrestored picture frame that shows dark abrasions, dark surface dirt as well as numerous imperfections and chippings can have a negative effect on the aesthetics of a painting. 

The picture and the frame inevitably lose their visual impact and even their value. They appear neglected, old and broken. 

Therefore, alongside the restoration of a painting, the "optical reconstruction" of a frame should not be forgotten. Through this, the frame regains its aesthetic value. Cleaning the surface of a frame can already have a great effect and let the picture shine in new glory. 

For instance, this can be seen in the work "Piazza San Marco II" by the Czech artist Dana Hlobilová (born 1928). Before the cleaning, the frame appears greyed. It shows local dark spots and abrasions. This negatively affects the painting insofar as the grey areas of colour in the painting are emphasised. The otherwise radiant tones of the blue sky and the red St. Marcus tower automatically appear "greyer" as well. A loss of aesthetics also means a loss of value. 

After the surface has been cleaned, the work shines in its original beauty yet again. The frame, which initially appeared grey, has been given back its fresh white colours. Likewise, the luminosity of the tempera colours of the painting returns visually. 

A further visual improvement was achieved by retouching the dark abrasions on the frame. The local dark abrasions were covered with a retouching medium and thereby visually "removed". This way, the frame can now shine in its full aesthetics.  

In particular, the conservator's eye can now also concentrate on the wonderful painting and is much less bothered by the initially uncleaned frame.