Rococo frame restoration

24th August 2017 - 2 minutes read

Rococo frameThis carved and gilded French Rococo frame, with elaborate moulded composition decorative motifs, dates from the mid to late eighteenth century. The Rococo was associated with the reign of Louis XV of France. During that time, a lighter and more delicate adaptation of Baroque style emerged. Typical examples of decorative forms from the period can be seen in this particular frame, such as shell cartouches, C-curve pierced scrolls and foliate decorations (Mitchell & Roberts, 1996). These combine to create a fluid, logical development to the moulding pattern around the frame. Rococo frames are often asymmetrical and can seem disproportionate in scale to the painting. The movement was influenced by nature, as evident in the shell and plant motifs that also featured prominently in furniture and architecture of the day (Mitchell, no date).

The swept form of the frame has pierced C-curve scrolls placed at the centre of each side. These create a focal point for the design and a fluid centre for the swept rails. The rails, in turn, join at the corners which each feature a flamboyant shell cartouche. This playful and somewhat informal structure is very typical of that seen throughout the Rococo. This emphasis continues with large foliated decorations that wrap around the shell cartouches. Together, this Rococo frame’s finely carved and elaborate decoration presents a striking visual statement.

The frame was in good condition, overall, with local losses to the composition moulding and several of the decorative features. There were also regions of abrasion to the gesso and gilded finish. The decorative elements have been recast in polymer clay using moulded impressions taken from better-preserved areas. Traditional gesso was applied to the restorations before toning the surface finish to integrate with aged appearance of the oil gilding.


Mitchell, P. (no date). A Concise History of Frames, [online]. Available at: [Accessed 24/08/2017].

Michell, P. and Roberts, L. (1996). A History of European Picture Frames, London: Merrell Holberton.


By Charlotte Smith

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