Canaletto - Frame Conservation

Canaletto - Frame Conservation

Part 12 of Conserving a Canaletto

Also part of the TEFAF was the conservation of the painting’s frame. The frame is "period," meaning stylistically it is of similar age as that of the painting, but not original to our Canaletto. This is not surprising since frames, historically, were not really perceived as works of art themselves and, indeed, the idea of placing a higher value on the “package” of both the painting and its original frame is a relatively new concept. Our frame is constructed of wood with hand-carved elements originally gilded using water and oil gilding techniques.

Our frame, like the painting, had been treated multiple times in the past. As is common with older frames, the fragile gilding layers were damaged by harsh cleaning campaigns in the past and sections of the ornament were missing. Previous restorers clumsily adhered pieces of ornament (some of which does not match the original) where the losses occurred, and coated the surface with rotten stone to give the frame an "antiqued" appearance. Furthermore, large sections of the carved molding were separating from the back of the frame itself.

(Text-Left: Overall, Before Treatment Text-Middle: Detail, Missing Ornament and Gilding, Text-Right: Detail, Heavily Applied Overpaint/Rotten Stone)

The frame’s treatment first involved readhering the ornament runs onto the back of the frame. Once completed, the rotten stone and restorer-applied ornament pieces were removed. Lost ornament was recast using extant examples on the frame as the basis for the mold. They were then custom fit, adhered into place, and toned to match the surrounding frame color and texture.

The frame’s sight edges (the inside edges of the frame next to the painting itself) are too large for the Canaletto (another way we know the frame is not original to the painting), so we manufactured and installed a fillet to fit inside the sight edge, which allowed us to better secure the picture to the frame. Once complete, I could reinstall the picture safely into the frame and voila!

This post is one in a multi-part series by Denver Art Museum staff on a long lost painting located in our collections. Find links to more from the series.

Image credit: Giovanni Antonio Canal, called il Canaletto. Venice: The Molo from the Bacino di S. Marco, about 1724. Oil on canvas. Bequest of Charles Edwin M. Stanton, 2009.336.

James Squires was the paintings conservator at the Denver Art Museum.