The Frames and Gilding Department focuses on stabilizing and preserving as much of the original surface and decoration as possible.


The Frames and Gilding Department specializes in the preservation and restoration of frames and objects with gold, silver, and metal leaf applied on the surface. The Center’s conservators focus on objects that include period frames, gilded antiques, and furniture.

In their treatments, the gilding conservators endeavor to retain as much of the original finish as possible and to achieve this, they must stabilize insecure areas first. The process of stabilization requires using reversible conservation adhesives to secure the unstable layer. 

Next, our conservators meticulously build layer upon layer of materials to prepare the surface for gilding.  Working from the first layer of carved or cast media, the conservator then applies the appropriate fill material to create an adequate support on which to lay the gold leaf.  The delicate piece of gold leaf is then fastidiously applied to the prepared surface and toned to emulate the surrounding areas.

Treatment Gallery

a 20th century irving couse frame. gilt wood and toned.

a baroque-style frame from late 19th to 20th century. Gilt wood.

a george i, 18th century gilt-gesso pier table.

a 19th century rococo-style mirror. gilt wood.

a federal frame with twisted rope, 18th-19th century (detail). shown with bronze paint removal, before and after.

repairing a gilded oval frame: replacing an old repair of a decorative crown.

stories related to frames and gilding conservation:

video: Treating a guilded mirror

The Center's Gilding Department specializes in the preservation of frames and objects with gold, silver, and metal leaf applied to the surface. A wonderful example of the type of projects our Gilding Conservators frequently undertake recently came to us in the form of a mirror in need of conservation.

video: It Takes Tools to Make A Thing Go Right

When Josh McCauley, The Conservation Center's Senior Gilder and Frames Conservator, asked his colleague Stephen Ryan, Senior Furniture Conservator, to collaborate on treating a massive 18th century Spanish colonial frame, there was only one thing on his mind: Steve's superb selection of tools. "Carving is very physical, very demanding. I knew with Steve's help, we could share the workload and accomplish something extraordinary," said Josh. "Plus, I knew he would have the coolest tools to bring over to my workspace." The first ever major collaboration between these two departments resulted in one of the most gorgeous frames we've ever seen here at The Center. "This was one of the toughest jobs I've ever encountered," said Josh. "But it was such a satisfying project. Plus it was nice to have Steve make a very special guest appearance in my studio space."

Gilded Brilliance: New Decorations for a Pair of 19th Century Frames




“These beloved 19th Century portraits are of my great-great-great grandfather Luther Bodman and his wife, Clarissa Day Bodman. They are family heirlooms that were on view in our family homestead in Connecticut—a house built in the mid-1700s. During the 1950s, burglars broke in, vandalized the house and seriously damaged the paintings. My grandmother, Emily Bodman Leiserson, who owned the house and the paintings at the time was devastated. She sent the paintings to Washington DC to have the damaged canvases repaired. Eventually she gave the paintings to my mother, Ruth Bodman Leiserson, who later gave them to me. Although as a child I thought the portraits seemed dark and very somber, I nonetheless loved them.    

A Refreshed Frame for "Madonna and Child"



When the Diocese of Rockford brought its classic Madonna and Child painting to The Conservation Center for conservation, Josh McCauley, The Center’s Associate Conservator of Frames and Gilding, had the impressive and challenging task of restoring the work’s Revival style frame-which was heavily overpainted, thus masking potential structural damage. In addition, many of the intricate decorations on the frame were showing signs of age and deterioration. The goals of this project were to first remove the overpaint, then consolidate existing decorations, and finally fabricate the lost carvings.