My parents inherited a painting that's a source of considerable disagreement between them. To Dad, it's just a stately landscape but for Mom it's a sea of black-green oil with indistinguishable forms.
Since it hung for decades in the living room of someone who smoked like a chimney, I have a hunch that the painting may simply be in need of a sensitive cleaning by a professional art conservator. Not knowing what might be beneath the grit, I have to say at this point I'm more intrigued with the frame.
As Caroline Clifton-Mogg explains, "antique frames are now recognized as an art form in themselves." Even vintage frames are highly desirable, and in some cases are more valuable than the paintings they surround.
Older frames were finished by hand, not by machine. Gilding was done with gold leaf (real gold hammered into ultra-fine sheets) that was applied to gesso-covered, well-sanded raw wood. Of course there are still moldings made today as period frames were, with handcrafted quality woods or intricate plaster work and labor intensive hand-gilding. Clifton-Mogg says that painstakingly crafted gold-leaf frames have a depth of color lacking in mass-produced moldings, and they retain their looks. But not surprisingly they are quite costly.
If you are game to give it a go, she provides instructions in her book for constructing a frame from scratch. Simple painted finishes and staining techniques are covered too. For gold-leaf tutorials I'd pick-up a current guide book at an art supply store.
It's not like me to post a nearly all-neutral room, but this arrangement of pictures and objects caught my eye. The intention was to achieve a quiet, harmonious look, so the frames are variations of gilded gold, and the art is very subdued in color. Texture and dimension come in with the range of media -- oils, sketches, cameos in relief -- and with the sculptural bracket. The tiny etched portrait is purposely hung close to the sofa because it's thought that art looks best when it has a connection to the furniture in a room.
In contrast, this arrangement offers a riot of stimulation.
Credits: Image two is Amelia Handegan's design as seen in Accents on Accessories. Image three is from Displaying Pictures. Image four is from Martha Stewart's Decorating Details, Oxmoor House, 1998. And the last picture is from Paris Rooms by Stephen Mudge, Rockport, 1999.
For a related past post, click here.
If you are intrigued by painting restorations, watch the related Sotheby's podcast available for free through iTunes. (Search for Sotheby's Private View, Restoring Rembrandt's St. James the Greater.)