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Antique Gesso Picture Frames FOR SALE

Antique gesso picture frames appeared at the beginning of the 19th-century. When we talk about gesso frames, we are referring to wood frames with decorations in gesso. There is no picture frame in history made completely of gesso. So, a wood structure is the base of a gesso frame.

Antique gesso frames are much faster to realize than wood-carved frames. Consequently, they are less expensive. In fact, to realize them, a gilder needs just molds and gesso. On the other hand, a very complex gesso frame can be more difficult to be made than a wood-carved one.

Why fancy gesso frames are tough to realize?

There are certain 19th-century mirror frames quite elaborated. Above all, when they have a crest of curled acanthus leaves there’s a huge work underneath. If the crest is in gesso, it must have a metal soul inside. On the contrary, it could not stand by itself on the top of the frame.

Therefore, a gilder with the skills to create such a complex work has to be considered a master. It’s easy to manufacture the little gesso ornamentations which lie straight on the four sides. On the contrary, it is very hard to create the metal part hidden underneath the crest of a mirror frame.

Antique gesso frames became a symbol of the 19th-century era. Master gilders got so expert in using the gesso technique to be able to realize masterworks without the need of a carver. Their work was so sophisticated to compete with hand-carved models. Before the 1800s, frames were rigorously carved on softwood and in hardwoods like walnut. After the 19th century, carved frames almost disappeared.

Antique wood and gesso frames

So, why in history there was this sudden switch in the way of manufacturing frames? We suggest that the main reason is because of the Industrial Revolution. That happened in the midst of the 19th century in England and then spread out Western Europe quite quickly.

The productions of goods had to increase so much that most of the systems of production were transformed. In the case of frames, the carving process was too long and did not allow the goods to boost in the market. Antique wood and gesso frames with gesso decorations solved the problem. As a result, gesso became the primary source to build high-quality mirror frames.

OUR antique gesso picture frames

Down below we explain step by step which material to use to realize antique gesso frames. First of all, we realize the wood structure of the frame which will serve as a base. Second, we put on top of it the gesso ornaments. Antique gesso picture frames are fast to make because gilders use molds to prepare the decorations.

Gesso is made with rabbit glue, flour, and water. We melt them together in a pot on the stove. What you get is a paste that will be finally mixed with gesso to get dry.

When the ornates dry on top of the frame, they are quite dull. They need to be worked on. We use several tools to transform them into sharp decorations. This process is tremendously faster compared to carving procedures. But still, too slow compared to our new technique!

A new system to speed up the process

To fasten the process of building gesso picture frames, even more, we use wood pulp. Our wood pulp is an invention of a few years ago: It is very innovative. We prefer it because when it gets dry becomes stronger and more durable than gesso. See a video on our Youtube channel to check our technique.

Also, the dry wood pulp decorations are easy to be recarved. As Gesso, wood pulp is dull when we get it out from molds. After a recarving process of it, things change quite a lot. We’ll be able to reach astonishing results without losing in quality. In fact, we obtain more resistant products compared to traditional antique gesso picture frames.

When gilders remodel the gesso, they still use chisels. Unfortunately, as the chalk is fragile, it can get broken easily. That doesn’t happen often using wood pulp because of its good properties.

We pay attention to the final result. For us, it’s a priority. As you won’t be able to see gesso underneath the gilding, why not push the technique even further. As the 1800s’ gilders invented gesso to save time, we have decided to go for wood pulp to reach even better results.

Expensive gesso picture frames

It still happens that certain clients ask for reproductions with the same characteristics and materials of authentic frames. When this happens, usually they don’t just ask for gesso decorations, but for genuine gold leaf and red bole as well. So, in this case, we use strictly traditional techniques and materials to realize expensive replicas.

At the end of the work, a customer has a hard time telling our reproductions apart from the originals. As a result, one should cut the frame in the middle to verify that they are new.

As we try to make customers happy, we still use under request, old techniques! If you decide to possess an expensive frame made with the same procedures of antique wood and gesso frames, mail us your request. We will surely be able to achieve the result.


We can personalize any element of our products. We realize antique gesso picture frames in any size and for any painting. You may ask for dramatic changes in the finishings of our standard models. Send us pictures explaining your ideas, and we will interpret them as best as possible. You could even custom the profile size and the width of any model.

Old gesso frames for sale are very recent compared to Renaissance or Baroque frames. For this reason, one’s find a wide range of models and styles available in the antique market. They were mostly manufactured in Italy and France. So, on our website, you will find many models of reproduction frames for sale.

Styles of antique wood and gesso frames

France had a significant role in the production of antique gesso frames. They mastered the technique of gesso decorations. See down below a couple of links to our models where you will appreciate the sophisticated ornamentations of two French-style frames.

Barbizon picture frame
Empire picture frame

The 1800s have been plenty of styles. From France, the gesso technique spread all over Western Europe. See below a couple of fine Victorian gesso frames. They’re really similar to French models. The same happened to the Italian models: They were very influenced by French gesso frames.

Victorian style picture frame
Gold Victorian frame