A selection of framing and conservation terms explained.
French term used for an apprentice.
Type of interlacing, geometric ornament derived from Arabic designs.
The outer edge of the frame furthest from the painting.
A board applied to the back of the frame to protect the painting from physical and environmental damage.
A 17th century style, with frames characterised by deep-relief carving of organic forms, in particular leaves.
A moulding with a semi-circular profile. Also called astragal.
A fine clay mixed with animal glue which is the foundation layer for gilding. Prior to applying bole the timber is prepared with gesso. In burnishing, the bole beneath the gold is polished to give high shine to the gilded surface.
Where a gilded surface is polished to produce a dense and highly reflective appearance. Agate or animal teeth are traditional burnishing tools for gold leaf.
Meaning “little box” in Italian, this type of frame has raised moulding at the inner and outer edges and a flat recessed section between.
Classical revival style
A nineteenth century frame style based on ancient Greek and Roman architecture.
French term for a journeyman. This position was part of the final education of craftsmen, who travelled and learnt new techniques for a number of years.
Complex cut-out areas
Where the ornament is pierced, with gaps revealing the wall behind the frame.
A mouldable material used to produce decorative ornament for picture frames. Compo was used extensively in picture frames from the late 18th century, and along with cast plaster, largely replaced hand carved ornament in the 19th century. Recipes vary but it is generally comprised of chalk or gypsum mixed with linseed oil, rosin, and animal glue. When warm, compo has a dough-like consistency and can be pressed into rigid moulds. The material stiffens on cooling but can be re-heated to so that it is pliable for positioning on the frame.
A term used to designate products that have undergone rigorous testing to ensure that they will remain stable and not affect surrounding materials in the long-term.
A method where tiny fragments from a frame are mounted in small resin blocks. The resin is abraded or cut back to reveal the fragment in cross-section, which when viewed using a microscope show the layers that make up the frame surface.
Types of decorative ornament often seen on picture frames which resemble the letters ‘c’ and ‘s’.
A flattish rounded frame moulding.
A fine repeated diamond-shaped pattern, usually impressed or carved into a surface.
A natural plant resin derived from an East Asian palm (including Daemonorops draco).
Faults / Faulting
The process of filling in any gaps during the gilding process.
Fers a repareur
French term for irons (chisels) of a repareur craftsman.
A narrow flat section between different mouldings.
Surface treatments on a frame, such as gilding, painting or varnishing.
A carved or moulded repeated decoration in the form of parallel, recessed channels.
See ‘Ground layers’
French Rococo style
Rococo is an 18th century French decorative style, featuring flowing curves, including ‘C’ and ‘S’ forms and shells.
The main flat section of a frame, which can be decorated or left plain, usually with raised mouldings at either side.
A mixture of animal glue and gypsum applied in multiple layers to timber to create a foundation for decorative finishes such as painting or gilding. May also refer to ground layers containing chalk.
A padded wooden panel covered with fine suede, which is used to lay out gold leaf for flattening and trimming during the process of gilding.
A natural hair brush, usually made with squirrel hair, used by gilders to pick up gold leaf.
A decorative technique where a layer of incredibly thinly beaten metal (commonly gold) is applied to a surface.
A dilute or weak glue often made from rabbit skins. It is used in combination with other materials to make gesso and composition.
Gold or gold alloys beaten to a thickness of approximately 0.1 microns.
Refers to a disembodied and fanciful representation of a face as part of the ornament on a frame.
The surface layers applied to a frame to provide a foundation onto which gold leaf (etc.) applied. These usually include gesso and bole. Also called foundation layers.
Frame ornaments were traditionally hand carved in timber, while in the 19th century ornaments were commonly moulded using plaster or composition.
The screws, hooks and hanging devices used to hang a framed picture.
Gaps between sheets of gold leaf laid on a surface, which are subsequently filled in by faulting.
A process where replaced ornament or small losses in the gilding or gesso are disguised by painting over the loss using stable conservation grade paints.
Laurel and berry ornament/Laurel or oak
Laurel leaves (also known as bay leaves), often shown with their berries, and oak leaves, are two natural forms often seen in frame ornament, appearing as repeated patterns.
The subtle lines visible where two sheets of gold leaf overlap at one edge.
An early term for a mirror.
Louis XIV style
A French 17th century Baroque frame style with straight sides and projecting corner and centre ornaments.
Louis XV style
A lighter French 18th century style, incorporating the Rococo elements, in particular swept edges and prominent corners and centres.
French term used for a carpenter, who would cut and assemble the timbers needed to carve a picture frame.
A joint at the corners of frames, created by cutting the timber diagonally at 45°, and held together with adhesive and nails or screws, and sometimes reinforced with splines (tapered inserts visible at the back).
A type of adhesive used to adhere gold leaf and other metals during gilding.
Decoration which is produced in a mould, as opposed to being hand carved, principally made of composition or plaster.
A term generally used to describe a timber length that has been shaped using tools such as scrapers, planes or rotary cutters. It is the basic shape of the frame profile.
A term used to describe a frame moulding with an S-curve profile.
Oil gilding / Oil gilded
One of two main types of gilding. A drying oil such as linseed oil mixed with metallic dryers is brushed onto a frame to create a slightly tacky surface. The gold leaf is then laid onto this. It commonly applied to decorative or ornate surfaces. Also called mordant gilding.
Oil-based paint binder, often based on linseed oil.
A coating applied to gold leaf to matte the surface, shift the tone or as a protective layer. It is generally made with animal glue and shellac, into which pigments or dyes can be added.
Decoration that is applied to a plain frame moulding.
Deterioration due to chemical reactions involving oxygen.
The subtle changes to a surface that gradually occur through every day use or the life of an object. Generally patina is desired on a frame, reflecting the age and history of the piece.
French term used for a painter-gilder, who undertook the entire finishing on a frame, including repareur, gilding and toning.
A tall large mirror, designed to be located in the wall space between two windows, often above a table.
A tool used by wood workers to remove thin scrapings of timber, for example to create a flat surface.
A shortened term for Plaster of Paris, which is a type of calcium sulphate powder that sets hard when mixed with water. It was often used in the 19th century to cast large sections of ornament for frames as well as architectural details.
An absorbant material, such as fabric or cotton wool, dampened with solvent and applied to a surface in conservation treatments.
Profile/ profile drawing
The profile is the main shape of a frame moulding. A profile drawing is an illustration of the frame moulding in cross-section.
Prominent or Extended corners
The ornament of a picture frame that extends beyond the straight sides, especially at the corners or centres.
The recess at the back of a frame’s inside edge, onto which the painting is positioned.
A process of replacing an existing frame on an artwork. At the NGV reframing is based on research to determine the relationship between the frame and artwork, the artist’s framing preferences and frames of the period, with reference to historical examples and archival material.
Stylistic period between Louis XIV and Louis XV, including about the first 30 years of the 18th century, when Philippe II, duc d’Orléans, was regent of France.
La reparure is the French term for the technique of finely carving into the gesso layers to create decoration prior to gilding. Le repareur is the term for the person who undertakes the work.
Later versions of the Rococo style that originated in France in the 18th century, with swept edges and prominent ornament at the corners and centres.
A frame style named after the artist Charles Rolando, a regular client of Melbourne frame maker John Thallon. Rolando frames are highly ornamented, often including a spiralling leaf ornament at the top edge and a sanded frieze.
A finely ground limestone powder that can be lightly applied to gilding during the finishing of reproduction frames, to help provide a sense of age.
A powder made of finely ground ferrous oxide used to prevent gold leaf from sticking to surfaces, such as a gilder’s cushion.
Decoration that ‘runs’ or continues without stopping around the frame.
The application of a granular material to a tacky surface to create a textured effect. Commonly sand is used, but other materials can be substituted for different effects. It is usually applied to flat sections of the frame.
A large scooped moulding, generally based on an ellipse
French term used for a carver.
A resin secreted by the lac insect that is dissolved in alcohol to make a varnish.
Cracking to a moulded ornament, such as composition, due to natural drying and exposure to sources of heat. The drying effect causes shrinkage of the material that can result in cracking.
The inner edge of the frame closest to the painting.
A narrow inner frame, generally flat or bevelled, that sits within the rebate at the sight edge of the main frame.
Solvent spot tests
Testing method used in conservation treatments where very small quantities of solvents are applied to discrete areas on a frame. These tests help determine the type of gilding and the treatment method to be used.
Stock moulding/Stock frame moulding
A moulding that is mass-produced in lengths, and cut to size and assembled to form a frame.
Where the shape of a frame’s top edge is curved in and out, linking corner ornaments (and often centre ornaments) that extend beyond the straight edges of the frame.
The application of coatings to a frame to reduce the brightness of the gilding. Often these coatings are glue-based (see ormolu).
The highest part of a frame profile, that is closest to the viewer.
A semi-circular decorative moulding, often applied to the top edge of a frame.
Voids and recesses under the ornament that create high relief and three dimensional form.
A red-coloured pigment made from the mineral cinnabar (mercuric sulphide).
Water gilding / Water Gilded
One of two main types of gilding, where gold leaf is laid onto a prepared surface of gesso and bole. ‘Gilder’s liquor’ (generally water with a small amount of alcohol) is used to reactivate the adhesive in the bole, securing the gold leaf in place. It is more commonly used on flat or gently curved areas of ornament, and can be burnished to a high shine.