Not Varnishing Icons
Icons have tempera and gold leaf on the surface so it is an option to put a protective layer on them so this is what happens when you don't.

Unvarnished icon with a rebated frame. Copyright (c)2020 Paul Alan Grosse If you are not going to varnish a tempera painting, you basically have two options for framing it: use a normal, rebated frame; or, use a tray frame. A tray frame will hold painting from the back and allow you to see the sides as well.

With a rebated frame, the usual choice is to put it behind glass - with water colours, it is usual to use a mount as well. This will keep out the pollutants in the air as well as insects and also protect it from accidental physical damage such as impact or water.

However, it is not always the case that the owner of a painting wants to put it behind glass as doing so takes away some of the experience of colour and so on.

Additionally, the frame itself can cause damage to the surface of paintings as there are oils in the wood that the frame is made from as well as loose gold leaf and so on. So, what can be done to protect the painting from the frame?

Frame Sealing Tape with layer of aluminium. Copyright (c)2020 Paul Alan Grosse Frame tape sticks very well to the backs of frames and is usually pH-neutral and is very different to the masking tape that is so often used by framing shops which tends to peel / fall off after a few years. Frame tape, though, still deforms elastically so even though it looks as though it is settled when you have finished with it, it is stil applying tension/compression to whatever you have stuck it to.

This tape, however, has a barrier layer of aluminium foil in it so that when you bend it, it deforms plastically. This means that if you stick it to a surface with corners or curves, it will stay in place.

On its back, it also has a layer of paper that is acid-free and lignin-free so is not going to damage your artwork.

It is designed to conform to FACTS standards for preservation framing.

Inside the rebate showing wood and lookse gold leaf - both of which can damage an unprotected icon. Copyright (c)2020 Paul Alan Grosse Here, you can see inside the moulding's rebate showing loose gold leaf and bare wood. Gold is very malleable and if you press a surface against it, it will deform and possibly stick to the surface of the artwork.

Further to this, wood contains oils and after a while, these migrate through the surface of the wood and get absorbed into the artwork where they contact each other, causing damage to it. The aluminium in the tape, apart from providing a malleable tape that will stay where you stick it, also provides a chemical barrier, stopping oil and other contaminants from getting to your artwork.

The first thing that needs to be done here is for any loose gold leaf needs to be rubbed off lightly so that there is nothing loose in the rebate.

Aluminium-lined tape cut to length and folded, redy to put in place in the rebate. Copyright (c)2020 Paul Alan Grosse Here, I have cut the tape to the length of the rebate and then cut the tape in half so that I can get the rebates on both sides of the frame - the rebate is only around 9mm deep.

I have then cut the ends so that the tape that will sit in the rebate has the ends cut at 45 degrees and where the tape will stick to the back of the rebate, it is straight.

Next, I have put the tape, rebate edge against the back of the rebate with the backing tape upwards and folded it over the sight edge of the frame. Next, I have started to remove the backing tape.

pH neutral self-adhesive aluminium-lined tape providing a protective layer between the painting and the frame. Copyright (c)2020 Paul Alan Grosse With the backing tape completely removed - the tape is quite stiff - I have carefully positioned the edge of it with the sight edge and then stuck it down, that edge first then working into the corner and finally up the back, so that the tape cannot be seen from the front of the frame.

Here, you can see how the pieces of tape fit in there when finished.

Painting in place with the tape producing a small distance between the bottim of the sight-edge and the painting. Copyright (c)2020 Paul Alan Grosse Here, you can see just how small the gap is but even though it is small, it is only at the edge and everywhere else, it has paper with a layer of aluminium protecting it.

Using a scale and measuring it on the image using an image editor, the gap is around 150 microns.

Painting in place (this is on oak panel) with same tape covering gap between sides of rebate and the painting, stopping insect ingress. Note how the foil-lined tape moulds to the edgesd of the gap and the fittings on the back of the frame. Copyright (c)2020 Paul Alan Grosse Here, you can see the tapes other role which is to seal off the gap at the back of the painting to stop the ingress of insects, chemicals and so on.

Note that you can see how it moulds into the edges of the gap and also around the clips used to secure the icon.

Also note that you can see the support's medulary rays as well as the grain so you can see that it is painted on quarter-sawn oak.

The picture in its frame. Copyright (c)2020 Paul Alan Grosse Finally, this is the icon in its frame.

All images and original artwork Copyright ©2019 - 2020 Paul Alan Grosse.