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Frames in Europe are made of carved wood or plaster, but in China of resin.

European stretchers are distinguished by being made from oak or mahogany. New paintings actually smell different from old ones.

The resultant fine mosaic of cracks is called ‘craquelure’.

dating a picture frame-84

Perhaps they have been ‘overpainted’, or suffered from centuries of dirt.

Then there are the ‘improvers’ who have added to, and amended, original works.

Far more Old Masters exist than most of us imagine.

With a little detective work – sometimes just with the naked eye – paintings thought to be by virtual unknowns can be found to be hugely significant.

In centuries past, there were clumsy attempts to remove dirt.

The Irish used potatoes, the English urine mixed with ashes and lavender oil.

Though they might seem like afterthoughts, picture frames can be works of art unto themselves.

In fact, the earliest frames were often integral parts of a piece.

A sort of reverence in the art world stops us from doing this, but what lies beneath is important.

On the wood bars that form the stretcher at the back of the painting you can often see indicators as to who has owned a painting, how much it has sold for in the past and if and when it has been exhibited.

It’s actually very difficult to fake age in paintings.

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