Frame thumbnail 1
Frame thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Furniture, Room 133, The Dr Susan Weber Gallery

Frame

late 17th century (made)
Place Of Origin

This 17th-century French frame may have been intended for a portrait. The symbolism of the carved frieze, with its roses and lilies, grapes and wheat, could also suggest that it was used for a religious picture, such as a Nativity scene or a depiction of the Virgin and Child.

Frames were used both as protective and decorative devices. The elaborate carving and the lavish gilding of this frame would have enhanced the picture it contained. The level of decoration of the frame would have most probably matched the social status and importance of the sitter. A similar frame can be seen in Jean Garnier’s Allegory of Louis XIV Protector of the Arts and Sciences (now at Versailles).


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Brief Description
Oval picture frame of gilded oak, with applied carving of a garland of fruits and flowers. French 1600-1700
Physical Description
Summary description:

Oval picture frame of gilded oak, with applied carving of a garland of fruits and flowers.



Decorative Scheme:

The oval frame takes the form of a carved garland with clusters variously of roses, grapes, wheat, and lilies. The oval frame takes the form of a continuous garland with 22 clusters, variously configured, that contain four carved motifs: roses, grapes, wheat, and lilies. At the top is a cluster bound in the middle with a ribbon with all four elements.



The outside or back edge of the frame has an ogee moulding carved with alternating husks and acanthus leaves, each husk framed by an inward-facing c-scroll, against a punched ground. There are decorative indentation marks on the outside edge, at a regular interval.



Structure and materials:

The frame is made up of four pieces, joined together with half-lap joints. The floral elements are carved in 22 sections and applied onto the flat surface of the frame. A once missing cluster now found reveals that it was glued on to the surface. The sprays are not joined to each other, the end of each spray covers the beginning of the next one, giving an impression of continuity in the decorative scheme. The inside and outside edges of the frame are carved in the solid.



Much of the back of the frame is covered with water-stained 17th - or 18th-century paper. This was overlaid with printed paper, possibly contemporary, only fragments of which remain.



The sight edge rebate of the frame is shallow. Nails would have been used to hold the picture and there are twenty-six nail holes at regular intervals. There are eighteen fixing holes that could correspond to nine different fixings.



Gilding:

Watergilding was used over a ground of red bole. Much of the gold leaf has worn away, revealing the bole. Some carved floral elements were burnished. There are punch marks (vertical straight lines) around the edge of the frame and under the carved floral frieze, which were applied after gilding. The back frame was gilded first and then the clusters applied and gilded.



Summary of later interventions/changes:

Missing spray in the top right hand part of the frame found in January 2012. Modern hanging ring and screws.

Three(?) layers of paper on the back face.
Dimensions
  • Height: 50.2cm
  • Width: 44cm
  • Depth: 4.5cm
LW 14.1.10
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
No. 679.64 (In ink to the right of the hanging ring)
Gallery Label
Frame for a painting 1680–1700 France Oak and lime, carved and water-gilded Museum no. 679-1864 The carving on this frame was ‘applied’. The twenty-two floral clusters were separately carved in limewood, a wood favoured by carvers for finely detailed work. The main structure, with low relief carving and punchwork, uses oak joined in four sections. The clusters were glued to the flat surface. Gilding concealed the joints and the difference in wood. (01/12/2012)
Object history
Acquired by the Museum from John Webb (fl. c. 1850-75) in 1864 for £20



Historical significance: Although frames can be appreciated as decorative objects in their own right, they were often intended to match the images they contained,so that for example the frame ornament would relate to the scale of the painting's composition. The function of the frame can be deduced from its size, shape and ornamentation. Here, the size, shape and floral decoration suggest two possible intended uses: it may have been intended for a portrait, possibly that of a woman. An almost identical frame, but without carving on the sight edge moulding, is seen in François de Troy's, Portrait Presumed to be of Anne Dacier Holding the Portrait of André Dacier, c. 1690 (in a private collection). Another one can be seen in Jean Garnier's Allegory of Louis XIV Protector of the Arts and Sciences (now at Versailles)



The floral motif of the frame might also suggest that it could have been used for a still life with flowers. However, the inclusion of roses and lilies, symbols of the Virgin, and grapes and wheat, symbols of the Eucharist and Christ could also indicate that it framed a nativity scene, or a depiction of the Virgin and Child. The arch-top frame original to Nicolas Chaperon's (1612-56), Presentation of the Virgin, 1639 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes) is of almost the same profile as the Museum's, but is carved with laurel leaves.
Historical context
A French form of the second quarter of the 17th century, oval frames were produced in great quantity from the 1650s onwards, and were often characterized by very fine carving. Designers were inspired by contemporary ornament prints such as those of Jean le Pautre (1618-1682) and Jean Berain (1637-1711).



In the 16th century, dynasties of exceptional carvers flourished, particularly in Italy. They enjoyed the same status as artists and they often also designed the interiors where the works would hang. Although frames with standardised designs began to appear, clients also commissioned master carvers to produce frames with specific decorative features for their paintings. In 17th century France, craftsmen began to stamp their frames with a studio mark; and dozens of pattern books were published and diffused throughout Europe.
Subject depicted
Summary
This 17th-century French frame may have been intended for a portrait. The symbolism of the carved frieze, with its roses and lilies, grapes and wheat, could also suggest that it was used for a religious picture, such as a Nativity scene or a depiction of the Virgin and Child.



Frames were used both as protective and decorative devices. The elaborate carving and the lavish gilding of this frame would have enhanced the picture it contained. The level of decoration of the frame would have most probably matched the social status and importance of the sitter. A similar frame can be seen in Jean Garnier’s Allegory of Louis XIV Protector of the Arts and Sciences (now at Versailles).
Bibliographic Reference
John Hungerford-Pollen, Ancient and Modern Furniture and Woodwork (London, 1974).
Collection
Accession Number
679-1864

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record createdFebruary 5, 2004
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