Bowed Glass

I never know what will come through the front door of the shop, and when a man with a very sad look on his face brought in this beautiful antique framed wildlife diorama with bowed glass, I didn’t quite understand.


Then I saw the cracks all around the edges of the curved glass. What a tragedy! Not only was this a great example of an antique carved picture frame with real bowed glass, but the glass was actually etched at each corner. Truly wonderful art forms that have all but disappeared.

It was bad enough to have the glass broken, but on top of that, the delicate contents of the wildlife diorama were now exposed. Could anything be done to preserve the talents of an early 20th-century taxidermist as well as the craftsmanship of the individual who put this display together?

Fortunately, yes.  We were able to provide the customer with a custom made replacement for his cherished auction find. Bowed glass or bubble glass – curved glass, bent glass, convex glass, it’s all the same – replacements are available in almost every case. Today, acrylic is an economical alternative which not only reduces the cost to the owner, it alleviates the concern for future breakage, and it cuts down on the weight, which can be a considerable factor in some cases. 

Closely following the development of photography in the late 19th century bowed glass was used in picture framing in which the photographs themselves were often “bowed”. Here’s an example of a hexagon frame just brought in for a bowed glass replacement. 


In order to fit the portraits to the curved glass, they were printed on very thin material and often copied from older tintypes. The resulting photographs were then wet to allow them to conform to the shape of the glass, which resulted in making them much more fragile. If you come across one in your home that you are interested in preserving, we can help with the removal of the photo, if you are not comfortable with that.

Did you ever notice what looks like sketching in an antique photo? In order to add clarity to the photographs, the photographers would often use charcoal or ink to outline the subjects and various features. The one above has been colorized using water-based paints.

Although once very popular, oval frames, round frames, octagon frames, and hexagon frames make up less than 5% of all picture frames produced today, but in the late 1800s, and up until the early 1940s, over half of the picture frames produced in America were of this type. Check grandma’s attic and basement carefully, as many of these family heirlooms may still be found hiding in a corner.

Fortunately for you, today, in addition to the availability of economical replacements for curved glass, oval frames, and the like, are also available at Carey’s Frame Shop to enhance your cherished antique photograph or even provide that look to a more recent photo.

Come see us and look over our selections.