Posts tagged #Painted frames

A Tale of Two Portraits


At a recent Christie’s sale preview I saw two portraits that caught my eye due to their frames. It was gratifying to learn that both frames were original to the portraits.

The first, painted in 1844 by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) is a portrait entitled ‘Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Charles-Henri of Bourbon Orleans, Duke of Orleans’. The Duke looks out with an imperturbable, regal bearing from a most elaborate surround inspired by earlier Louis XV style frames with prominent corners and centers and a lavishly decorated inner spandrel.

 It’s interesting to note that Louis XV frames would have been completely hand carved, while this frame, as a 19th century object, utilizes molded and applied composition ornament.

That the frame is original to the portrait is affirmed by a charming watercolor depicting the portrait of the Duke of Orleans in situ in the Grand Salon of Eisenach Castle, painted by the sitter’s younger brother Prince de Joinville in 1849.

Note the portrait in original frame on the wall at right.

Note the portrait in original frame on the wall at right.

The second portrait dates nearly 300 years earlier c.1541 and is by Renaissance painter and tapestry designer Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen (c.1500-c.1559).  The simple arch-top frame is painted black with simple, inner gilded moldings near the sight edge. The bottom of the frame with its canted horizontal rail is referred to as a wasserschlag or rain sill, a popular device in Northern European frames of the period that implies a window inviting the viewer inward.

The identity and position of the sitter is articulated in the script that occupies the central flat of the frame and tells us that it is Joost Aemszoon van der Burch, legal counsel to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V at the Council of Brabant.

The elegantly austere surround on the stoic, commanding presence of van der Burch couldn’t be more different from the florid extravagance of the Duke of Orleans and his dispassionate gaze and I am captivated by them both. Both men meet us in perfect attire, each emblematic of his own place and time.

Credit due to the Christie’s cataloging staff for suppling such excellent background on both artworks.


Early 20th Century Painted Frames

During my summer travels in the Netherlands I visited the Kröller Müller Museum in De Hoge Veluwe national park. Renowned for their many extraordinary paintings by Van Gogh, I was delighted to see the framing treatments on many of the Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings in the collection.

Nature morte géométrique  (“Geometric Still Life 1”) o/c, dated 1919, George Valmier (French, 1885-1937) 

Detail, Valmier: note the sympathetic angled profile of the frame and the contratsting white angle near the sight edge.

Three Cubist artworks clearly demonstrate how effectively a painted frame can showcase a composition. The George Valmier (1885-1937) ‘Geometric Still Life 1” of 1919 is framed in a simple profile: a primary outer portion that slopes back toward the wall at a 45˚ degree angle, painted a medium grey with the sight edge of the frame another 45˚ angle painted in white. The grey is carefully keyed to match areas of the canvas painted in the same tone and the white inner edge of the frame sets off the black edge that Valmier painted around the entire perimeter. The choice of color and the clean angles of the profile harmonize and support, rather than constrain, the vitality of the composition.

On Gino Severini’s “Still Life With A Guitar” also dated 1919 another angular profile in white and pale grey surrounds the painting. At first glance the profile is a simple raised inner flat in grey at the sight edge surrounded by a wide, flat panel in white. A closer look, however, shows that the inner grey flat has an additional small step where it meets the white panel, and the outermost side edge of the wide white panel has also been painted in the same grey as sight edge. These subtle and sophisticated touches create a fascinating dialog of steps and planes with the artwork.

“Still Life With A Guitar” o/c, dated 1919, Gino Severini (Italian, 1883-1966) 

Detail, Severini: note the extra small step of the silver-grey part of the profile as well as how the back edge where the frame meets the wall has been colored in the same manner.

A third example on “Playing Cards and Siphon” of 1916 by Juan Gris (1887-1927) demonstrates the power of a color scheme that speaks directly to the image. The profile slopes in toward the canvas: the top-most outer edge in black gives way to the primary center panel in grey, followed by an inner liner at the sight edge that is painted the same deep ochre of the table. The transition from the grey panel to the ochre liner is bridged by a narrow band of dark grey-black and adds to the sense of contrast in Gris’ dramatic composition while the matte quality of the frame surface further supports the lush darkness of the composition.

All three are excellent examples of how a sensitively painted surround can be an effective alternative to a gilded or natural wood surface.

“Playing Cards and Siphon” o/c, dated 1916, Juan Gris (Spanish, 1887-1927). A sophisticated color scheme in matte paint surrounds the dramatic tones of Gris’ composition.

The progression in both shape and color leads the eye inward and adds visual interest by emphasizing key colors from the image.

Note how the inner ochre liner has been painted with a grey-black to provide a transition where it meets the grey panel. Also, how a black fillet between the frame and the canvas adds subtle visual interest.