Damaged Ornate Antique Frame

Damaged Antique Frame

Losses can be repaired to preserve value and make look perfect

This frame belongs to a $25,000 painting and was made in France in the 1920s. The still life that goes in this frame is in the conservation laboratory to be treated for flaking.

Because this is the original frame and looks good with the painting, it is important to the owner to stabilize the conditions and make it look presentable, though he did not want to spend the money to make it look perfect.

The frame’s finish layers are cracking badly;  gesso pieces have been lost and some of the finish layers have begun flaking. Outside edges of the frame have many areas of exposed wood where the gesso has popped off (note photo above).

We applied very dilute low molecular weight acrylic adhesive into the cracks of the broken gesso layers with a small tipping brush. We went over the frame five times to make sure we consolidated all loose areas. We also toned the freshly flaked white gesso with water color, so that the loses will blend in better. Finally we coated the frame with wax to even out the appearance and to protect the surface of the frame.

For the $300 the frame’s condition was stabilized and the losses made to not seem so evident. The owner understood and accepted the frame’s gesso and painted liner was still stained and damaged looking (though stable). This cost was in contrast to the $1,800.00 to make the frame look perfect.

Ornate frames can be damaged easily when knocked around, as during rough handling/shipping or in natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and tornados. Smoke damage and fire damage can almost always be remediated. Check with you insurance adjuster about including nice frames that are damaged in a claim. Chop shop frames can easily be replaced with a new frame,

If you are going to throw out a nice, but damaged  frame, give me a call. I may be able to recycle it for you. Call toll free 888 704 7757

Conservation and restoration questions? Call toll free 888 704 7757

Appraisal questions? Call 805 895 5121

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Huell Howser Star Sighting

Huell Howser discovered the Globe Murals by Hugo Ballin

Huell Howser of California Gold

I was in Palm Springs last Friday (It was a 118 degs!) having dinner with an art dealer and collector when, to my surprise, in through the door came Huell Howser, Hollywood Icon and host of the TV series California Gold. How long has that program been on the air!!!? Talking about staying power!

It was good to reconnect with Huell after so many years when he did an hour long feature program on the discovery, uncovering and conservation of the Globe Lobby murals by Hugo Ballin at the Los Angeles Time Building. It was our company, Fine Art Conservation laboratories (FACL, Inc. that did the work. He was great to work with as he stuck his nose into every little detail of the project, interviewed me and commented to his viewers with his Southern folksy style about the discovery of these very interesting long lost paintings. His whole program was dedicated to our efforts. (more…)


Cleaning Lady Strikes Again! Plus Flaking Painting and Bad Restorations

This delightful scene of high society Veneto, Italy at the end of the 1700′s was purchased by its collector and brought to us for its problem of flaking paint. Apparently, the cleaning lady’s damp rag wiping down the lower areas (most easily reached) has caused this oft seen problem… which is totally avoidable.

Cleaning lady's damp rag causes paint to crack and flake

Flaking in lower areas is due to wiping the surface with a damp rag.

But even experienced collectors make mistakes. This problem of flaking is not the only problem: the painting has already been through at least a couple of restorations that were poorly done including mounting this painting to masonite and repainting much of the sky and clouds. What was thought to be valued at $25,000 is now being dumped for $1,000.00 because of condition problems. (more…)


Russian Old Master Painting Rescued From Trash

Discolored varnish and poor restorations obscure real qualities

Russian Masterpiece Painting is Resurrected

Recently, this artwork was politically classified to be thrown away until a sharp-eyed collector saved it from the trash. What probably happened, over the last 100 years, was that after a small rip had been repaired poorly, then again, and then another rip… and finally, the damage and the dirty surface made it fit for “long term storage” where it was forgotten… until someone started to clear things out.

This photo shows a detail of the painting during cleaning of the overpaint and discolored varnish revealing exquisite details and artistic quality. We’ll keep you posted as we resurrect the gorgeous woman in a white dress enjoying the good life.

This painting has a great story I’m sure you’ll find interesting, even in its abbreviated form: (more…)


Even Trash Can Be Turned Into Art Treasure with Proper Conservation

Shockingly, this stunning piece was found flaking and dingy in the garbage! An inept attempt was made to “restore” it that involved an abundant application of wax to hold the painting together and a wipe with solvent to remove part of the dirt.

The Dumpster Diver who discovered the painting donated it to a collector who recognized that under the disaster of flaking paint, wax, and grime, there was a valuable vintage piece.  Some research and careful examination yielded the title and date: “The Discussion” from 1929.  This discovery prompted the collector to contact us for a closer examination and professional conservation treatment. (more…)


Tips for Collectors: Protecting Yourself from Counterfeit and Fraudulent Art

Real versus Fake?

Distinguishing a genuine work of art from a counterfeit wannabe stands at the base of every collector’s worry. “Fakes” are not always an effort to deceive.  However, most “fakes” are fraudulent. Here are a few different scenarios to consider:

  • An artist’s estate can ethically add an artist’s signature to a piece post mortem in an effort to identify the estate and the artist on artwork that was unsigned originally.
  • An unscrupulous art dealer can add a signature to make the artwork more valuable.  Even the counterfeit signature of an unknown name can make the artwork more valuable than an unsigned painting.
  • A “new” painting can be antiqued to look old.
  • An old painting can be restored ineptly in order  to mask or disguise repairs that it changes the nature of the artwork and the art is no longer an “original.”
  • Old artwork, now dirty, can be mistaken for something it is not.  This can be an honest mistake by a collector or dealer.

Here are two interesting examples that recently came into the lab: (more…)