Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 77

The Bridgewater Collection and its picture frames
The Bridgewater Collection and its picture frames
These include Annibale Carracci’s Danaë (BG101),
in a Louis XIII/ XIV frame, and Raphael’s Madonna
del Passeggio (BG37), in an Italian seventeenth-century
cassetta frame; and also the Muleteers, a work with a
strange traditional attribution to Correggio, which
was selected from the Orléans collection not by the
duke but by the future marquess, and which is shown
in an Italian frame of ca. 1620. Since it is known
that the Regent Philippe d’Orléans had the paintings
in his collection systematically reframed,20 it may be
inferred that Bridgewater and Stafford had some of the
ex-Orléans pictures put into older frames – perhaps
because they considered that straight, seventeenthcentury mouldings fitted better with the simplified
mouldings of their own picture galleries. By contrast,
another of the duke’s “Raphaels”, the Madonna of
the Blue Diadem (BG36; in fact a Netherlandish copy
of the painting in the Louvre, and acquired not
from the Orléans collection but from that of Joshua
Reynolds), is seen in the engraving in the Prussian
frame of ca. 1735 that it retains to this day (fig. 16).
Complementary visual evidence that the duke retained
many of the frames that he had acquired with his
paintings, perhaps a majority of which had been made
in eighteenth-century Paris, is provided by Wonder’s
Patrons and Connoisseurs of Art of ca. 1826-1830 (see
figs. 4 & 5), which includes accurate representations
of several Bridgewater pictures. These include Van
Dyck’s Virgin and Child (BG23) in a Transitional frame
of ca. 1770; Metsu’s Lady and Dog (BG242) in a Louis
XVI-derived frame of ca. 1800, probably by Aubé;
and Teniers’s Alchemist (BG130) in an Empire-style
frame of ca. 1815 – all now lost.
Fig. 16 / After Raphael,
Madonna of the Blue
Diadem (BG36), in
Prussian frame of
ca. 1735, Edinburgh,
Scottish National Gallery,
Bridgewater Loan.
Fig. 17 / Nicolas Poussin,
Sacrament of Penance
(BG66), in English frame
of ca. 1825, Edinburgh,
Scottish National Gallery,
Bridgewater Loan.
Wonder’s painting dates from the last years of the
Stafford Gallery, and although it shows that the
marquess retained a number of the frames of his
inherited pictures, there also exists evidence that this
was by no means always true. Unfortunately, in contrast
to the case of the duke and Aubé, no documentation of
the work that the marquess must have undertaken on
his frames seems to survive. From the visual evidence of
the frames themselves, however, it is clear that during
the lifetime of the Stafford Gallery (1806-1830) he
frequently commissioned replacements for the existing
frames on the Bridgewater pictures, as well as for those
in his own collection. In part, such replacements would
have been prompted by the fact that, as a result of
new acquisitions and rehangings, the Gallery was in a
constant state of evolution.
Bond’s view of the New Gallery, published in John
Britton’s guidebook to the Stafford Gallery of 1808,
provides the only contemporary visual record of the
frames in the Bridgewater-Stafford Collection, and
there is no equivalent view of the Old Gallery – as the
duke’s Gallery was now called – which is where the
Dutch and Flemish paintings were hung. It has been
argued above, on the basis both of the payments to
Aubé and the stylistic evidence, that, by contrast with
many of the Italian paintings, the duke immediately set
about having the majority of the existing frames on his
Netherlandish pictures replaced.
A valuable visual document of the previous framing
of the Gildemeester pictures is provided by the view
by Lelie of the interior of the owner’s house in 1795
(see fig. 1), in which some of those bought by the
duke are clearly visible. These include Ruisdael’s Old
Gate at Amsterdam (BG197), Rubens’s Mercury Bearing
Psyche to Olympus (BG174; see fig. 14), and the so-called
Burgomaster, then attributed to Rembrandt (BG173). All
of the frames of these may be identified as Dutch, made
of gilt papier mâché in a provincial Régence/ Louis XV
style in about 1760, and characterized by their rounded,
simplified version of French ornament, resembling
the frames of pastels. This style lends itself, as here, to
close hanging in a picture gallery; and in fact, it is used
for nearly all the frames represented in Lelie’s view.
As already seen, however, the Rubens appears to have
been reframed by Aubé within weeks of its arrival in
London, and the same was certainly true of many of the
duke’s other Flemish and Dutch purchases.21 It should
be observed, however, that a number of other English
frames retained by Dutch pictures from the Bridgewater
Collection, and datable to around this period, are
rather simpler than those attributable to Aubé, and
probably date from the decade after the duke’s death.22
Presumably, therefore, they were commissioned by the
marquess soon after 1803 from other craftsmen, in the
interest of making the Old Gallery into a particularly
impressive display of Dutch painting, with harmoniously
similar if not exactly matching frames.
The duke’s Italian pictures were not completely excluded
from this initial campaign of reframing by the marquess:
the ex-Orléans Portrait of Doge Marcantonio Memmo,
for example, attributable to Palma Giovane (PG60),
likewise now has an English frame of ca. 1805. The
reframing of the larger Orléans pictures seems, however,
not to have got seriously underway until about ca. 1825,
the likely date of the set of frames that still enclose the
celebrated set of Seven Sacraments by Poussin (BG6369; fig.
17). Designed in a Louis XVI Revival style of ca. 1825,
these follow the basic pattern of Aubé’s frames, but in
a much simplified form, with the ornament reduced to
narrow bands of composition with acanthus leaves at the
corners. A near-identical design was employed for several
of the other new frames made for the Stafford Gallery
around this time, such as for Lorenzo Lotto’s Virgin and
Child with Saints (BG90) – as well as for some from the
marquess’s own collection, such as Pierfrancesco Mola’s
Baptist Preaching now in the Thyssen Collection – in a way
that perhaps gave the combined collections a degree of
pleasing homogeneity. At the same time, it should be
said that the reductive simplicity of the design no longer
adequately complements the richness and complexity of
the pictorial compositions, particularly those by Poussin.
As in the case of the duke, however, the marquess’s
campaign of reframing was by no means systematic or
comprehensive, and under his ownership many of the
frames in the combined collections remained as before.
The representation of some of the Bridgwater pictures
by Pieter Christoffel Wonder in ca. 1826-1830 (see figs.
4 & 5) has already been mentioned. Similarly, Wonder
shows two of Stafford’s own pictures – the ex-Orléans
Saint Mary Magdalene by Guido Reni and Maes’s Woman
Peeling Apples – in pre-Revolutionary French frames,
respectively of the periods of Louis XV and Louis XVI.


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