In the context of antique picture frames and mirrors, “composite” refers to a material used to create ornate details and embellishments. This composite is also known as “compo” or “composition,” and it was widely used in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

Composite is a mouldable material made from a mixture of materials including chalk, linseed oil, rosin, hide glue, and sometimes other elements. It has a putty-like consistency when heated, which allows it to be easily pressed into moulds to form decorative elements.

Once the composite cools, it hardens and retains the shape of the mould. These moulded elements can then be adhered to a wooden frame to create intricate and ornate designs. After the composite elements are attached, the entire frame is often gilded or painted.

The use of composite offered several advantages in frame-making. It was less expensive and more efficient than hand-carving, allowing for mass-production of detailed and elaborate frames. Furthermore, composite could mimic the look of carved wood or even metal, making it a versatile material in the hands of skilled craftspeople.

However, composite also has some drawbacks. It can be sensitive to heat and moisture, leading to potential damage over time. In older frames, composite elements may crack, shrink, or become detached. Despite these issues, many antique frames and mirrors with composite embellishments are still in excellent condition today, providing a glimpse into the artistry and techniques of the past.


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