Visitors to an art museum may never realize how important a frame is to their enjoyment of a work of art. Not only do frames protect and support artwork, but their design and materials must complement and enhance the art without overpowering it. The National Gallery of Art has an established philosophy of using period frames whenever possible, substituting reproduction frames in an appropriate style when necessary.
Frames are often more complex than they appear, and their preservation depends on proper care and treatment. Antique frames are traditionally made of gesso and carved wood and then gilded. Some are made of exotic solid or veneer wood. All frames are vulnerable to the same forces of deterioration that may threaten the artwork they are meant to protect.
When period frames are not available, conservators must become innovators. Our staff has even replicated antique machines to construct frames that have the look and feel of a particular period style. The efforts of frame conservators contribute to the museum experience in myriad ways.