The next day we tackled our main duty first, to get Adrian’s painting varnished. Our first stop was Cornelissen’s. He bought damar and mastic that he would mix to get the right varnish. We also found a curious bottle of lemon oil and were amused to find that the shop girl thought it was used to “make your paintings smell better”.
Our next destination was Arnold Wiggins and Sons, an establishment we were later told is one of the oldest framers in all of Europe. It is a wonderful unassuming workshop with a blank entrance off of a side-street. They make historical reproductions and repair original frames for every century and style- from Piccasso to Rembrandt, from the Ryjksmuseum to the Royal Collection. They gave Adrian an upstairs alcove to varnish the painting in and we spent over a good hour or two there working out the details on how to best get the painting free of dust, store it and then wait for the first layer to dry so that Adrian could be satisfied that there was no sinking in (a painters term that refers to the sheen of the oil surface). In the meantime, we were shown many styles of frames in various stages of completion- an enormous moorish replica frame, a gilded silver frame glazed with a lemon color that mixed with its own tarnish to create a beautifully complex effect, and Adrian’s favorite, an original Florentine dark wood frame that was being expanded to fit a new painting. Adrian entertained everyone by being able to discuss some of the same glues and mediums they also used daily, such as rabbit skin glue and gessos. They surprised us though by telling us about horse-hoof glue, a dark thick medium that actually smells nice, and shark skin sand paper that does not. We were told that the frame for the Earl took about 3 months worth of work.
-excerpt from Kate’s travel notes