What is the best way to handle framed and unframed paintings?

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Category: Handling
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Posted by Conservation Answers(Questions:33:Answers28)
Answered On 25 February, 2014 12:35 am

Before handling a framed work or an unframed painting, it is important to check the condition of the work, to avoid potential damage or loss. In particular:

  • check that the work is secure in the frame
  • check for loose pieces on the frame
  • check for any flaking paint on the artwork

Paintings and framed works should be carried in their correct vertical orientation whenever possible as debris at the bottom of the work can become dislodged. Carrying a painting or framed work vertically will also help to avoid having the object knocked.

Carry works with two hands

Carry small to medium works with one hand underneath supporting the weight and one hand on the side to steady it. Be careful not to place fingers between the canvas and the stretcher or strainer members when handling paintings, as this may cause distortions in the canvas and/or paint cracking and loss. Cupping your hand around the edges of a painting or frame with the heel of your hand will ensure that such damages will not occur and your fingers will not rest on the paint surface or frame.

Correct handling of a small sized painting

Correct handling of a small sized painting

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Incorrect handling of a small sized painting Incorrect handling of a small sized painting

Correct handling of a medium sized painting

Correct handling of a medium sized painting

Two people are needed to carry large items, one positioned on each side of the work. To carry large objects correctly, each person should place both hands on the side of the item. As above, when handling an unframed painting be careful not to place fingers between the canvas and the stretcher or strainer members as this may cause damage to the item. If there are handling straps attached to the back of the painting, use them rather than handling the actual object.

Correct handling of a large sized painting

Correct handling of a large sized painting

Remember to use clean gloves when handling paintings and framed works, and especially when carrying unframed paintings. Dirty marks and fingerprints on canvases and painted surfaces are permanently disfiguring and are generally difficult to impossible to remove.

Handling ornate and gilded frames

Gilded and/or ornate frames can be vulnerable to handling and movement. The gilded surfaces on many frames are particularly susceptible to finger marking, while ornate features are usually fragile.

To ensure the safe handling of gilded and/or ornate frames remember the following.

  • Use gloves wherever possible.
  • Avoid gripping ornate areas. Instead, hold the frame at points where it is strongest. The strongest part of an ornate frame is usually its back-most edge.
  • Do not lift the frame by the top member. Support the frame with one hand underneath the bottom member to take the weight and one hand on the side to steady it. Cup your hands around the edges of the frame with the heel of your hand as this will reduce potential damage or finger marking.
Correct handling of ornate frame, avoiding stress on fragile, decorative elements

Correct handling of ornate frame, avoiding stress on fragile, decorative elements

When moving a framed item, and indeed an item of any kind, the destination area should always be prepared to ensure the object's safe arrival. Ensure that padded blocks have been put in place and positioned according to the size of the framed painting and so that ornate frame decorations do not carry the weight of the object.

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