Studio for the restoration of frames 






Restoration is to repair the damaged part(s) of a frame and or to replace the missing parts thereof.

Traditional restoration of frames of paintings and mirrors has become an almost - extinct craft. To acquire the centuries old craftsmanship knowing the authentic materials and how to use them requires a thorough training, experience, professional knowledge and a sense of colour.

And not only that, because the ethical restorer needs a faultless sense of where to start and where to stop the restoration in order to conserve the authenticity of the frame. He needs to have the knowledge of the application of patinas and pigments at his fingertips and never to lose the overall view.

To patinate the renovated part of a frame, for instance after gilding it, is to adapt the colour of the newly restored part of the frame to the old original colour of the non-restored part of the frame. The only way to do this is by using authentic materials and the traditional methods. Proper restoration would not be possible with modern materials and methods.

Restoration of a frame can consist of replacing missing parts of and/or ornaments renovating dried out parts or parts where the gilding is worn, or repairing damage by damp. Quite frequently prior restorations will have to be removed before the proper restoration can start, failing which a good result – meaning the restoration is invisible – can not be realised. Other causes of frame damage are nicotine- or soot film and woodworm, the latter quite frequently.


Frame restoration using the traditional methods requires the restorer to mix his own materials, to fabricate patine, liquid and mouldable pâte, French polish, binding agent and bronzing material before the restoration can start.

Pâte, one of the most, if not the most, important material for restoration, is a tacky mixture of chalk, silk tissue, bone-glue and water. It is used to make moulds and casts. In the old days casts where pushed in moulds which were made of plaster of parish, gelatine or coagulated sulphur. The use of sulphur has been prohibited for some time. But not only consist of natural ingredients but because of its elasticity it is by far superior to work with.

To patinate is to adapt the colour of the restored part of the frame to the existing colour of the frame by applying an oxidising film or bronzing it. I regularly use inorganic pigments to make a restoration as authentic as possible. Inorganic pigments are disintegrated rocks, also called earth pigments. Minerals and earth pigments can often be used as colouring agents. They must be ground and mixed with a binding agent.

Pigment derives from the Latin “pigmentum”, which means paint. Although pigment is a substance which reflects a colour and has a specific colour it can only be called paint after mixing it with a binding agent (such as egg, water or oil). Without a binding agent pigments do not attach easily to an object.


The most frequent activities in connection with a restoration are the fabrication of moulds and casts, the modelling of corner pieces (so called: “noggins”) and the filling of one or more mitres. For all this pâte is used.

For gilding 21-23 and 24 carats yellow and white gold-leaf is used.

Three techniques are used depending on the desired result:

  1. Glue gilding: Egg shell finish

  2. Oil gilding: Glossy result, cannot be further polished

  3. Poliment gilding: High gloss attainable after polishing with an agate.

To attain a vivid result sometimes a bolus film is applied. Bolus is clay soil, which mixed with glue is called poliment. It can be red, black or brown. Instead of gilding with yellow or white gold-leaf, silver-leaf, copper-leaf or bronze powder can be used. Copper-leaf is much cheaper than gold-leaf. Nevertheless beautiful results can be obtained.


Atelier Nanette Backers, Noordeinde 58A, 2514GK, The Hague, Netherlands, Telephone: +31 (0)6-14947421