The type of paint is unknown. Can I prevent the gold colour on the frame from coming off when I vacuum it?

Gold leaf (and gold paint) on frames can be extremely sensitive to cleaning with water and also to rubbing with a cloth. We recommend that you only use a soft brush to remove loose dust from frames. Sometimes it’s possible to use a very smooth microfibre cloth to remove more ingrained dirt, but there’s always a risk of damaging the gold finish.

As far as the painting is concerned, I’d advise you not to try cleaning it yourself, assuming you don’t know what materials it’s made of and you don’t have any professional training. It’s all too easy to cause irreversible damage to a painting by cleaning it. This is particularly true of more modern paintings and paintings without a layer of varnish.

With respect to the materials used, there are a number of interesting possibilities, depending on the date of the painting. It could be oil paint, acrylic, egg tempera, a household paint such as alkyd or acrylic (not the same as artist’s acrylic paints), or even PVA (polyvinyl acetate), which was very popular in Norway from the late 1960s until the early 80s.

I recommend that you contact a paintings conservator. You can find one by looking on NKF-N: Find a conservator. They will be able to advise you about conserving the painting, and also about stabilizing the frame.

Kind regards from Laura, paintings conservator