Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 79

The Bridgewater Collection and its picture frames
In 1827 the Marquess of Stafford bought himself a
grand new town house, which he renamed Stafford
House (the present-day Lancaster House), and by
1830 he had transferred his own collection to his new
residence, leaving Cleveland House (by now more
often called Bridgewater House) and the Bridgewater
Collection to his younger son.23 Almost immediately
Lord Francis set about having a number of his newly
inherited paintings restored, in some cases with
new frames, and commissioning a catalogue of the
collection,24 with the numbers affixed to the frames.
The Bridgewater Collection and its picture frames
Responsible for this work – as well as for every other
aspect of curating and conserving the collection – was
John Smith, founder of a dynasty of frame-makers,
gilders, and picture dealers.25 Smith had already been
appointed frame-maker to the Prince Regent in 1810,
and in 1812 he supplied him with “two superb frames
most richly ornamented” for paintings by Rubens
and Van Dyck.26 His surviving Day Books, or account
books, showed that he worked for many of the leading
aristocratic collectors of the 1810s and 1820s (not,
however, the Marquess of Stafford), and from 1823
onwards he also sold pictures to Lord Francis.27 Most
of these were Dutch, and several of them came with,
and retain to this day, high-quality French eighteenthcentury frames. They include a very fine Louis XIV
frame on Dou’s Self-Portrait (BG124; fig. 18), perhaps
even made for the painting; a Louis XV/ XVI
Transition frame of ca. 1765 on Ruisdael’s so-called
Charcoal Burners (BG188);28 and the above-mentioned
Louis XVI frame on Terborch’s Singing Practice (BG198;
see fig. 11). More relevant in the present context is
the fact that from 1827 onwards the Day Books are
full of references to frames that Smith made for him,
for the most part – to judge from the descriptions and
the prices he charged – of relatively simple patterns,
but sometimes also much more ornate, such as the
“two very handsome frames richly ornamented
with French corners” that he provided in July 1830,
at a cost of £26.29 In this and most other cases the
respective paintings are not mentioned; in contrast to
the Aubé documents, however, the name of the artist
is sometimes inserted in a marginal annotation, in a
way that makes it possible to identify the particular
work. Of particular interest in this connection is an
account of February 1834, when Smith charged £52
for “two very large handsome frames with bold shell
corners…on chequered grounds, small sweep sides
meeting in the half centres…the whole gilt in oil and
burnished gold” for a pair of paintings by Titian.30
These were clearly the Diana and Actaeon and the Diana
and Callisto, and Smith’s frames of 1834 are clearly visible
in photographs of the Picture Gallery taken before they
were destroyed there in 1941 (see figs. 6 & 7). Designed
in a florid Louis XV Revival style, they represent a
Fig 18 / Gerrit Dou, SelfPortrait (BG124), in French
frame of ca. 1690, UK, Private
Fig. 19 / Titian, Three Ages of
Man (BG77), in English frame
of ca. 1835 (John Smith),
Edinburgh, Scottish National
Gallery, Bridgewater Loan.
fashionable reaction against the more restrained style
apparently preferred by Bridgewater and Stafford, and
they mark the beginning of a campaign to reframe
several of the most prestigious Italian paintings from
the Orléans collection. Examples include the frames
made for Raphael’s Holy Family with a Palm Tree (BG35;
see fig. 15) and Titian’s Three Ages of Man (BG77; fig.
19) (both Bridgewater Loan to the Scottish National
Gallery), both of which again show a cross-hatched
hollow moulding with a serrated swept rail at the top
and centre, with cartouches at the corners. In both
of these works the frame has an elevating influence
on the pictorial composition that is again particularly
appropriate to their arcadian subjects.
The same account of February 1834 makes explicit
reference to the framing of another ex-Orléans
picture, Guercino’s David and Abigail (BG27).31
In this case, however, the work is described as
“Improving on a very large Frame by increasing
the width of the moulding about 3rd backing on the
frame, enriching the corners and middles with bold
French ornaments and scrolls on chequered grounds
with mouldings on top edges and back; Preparing
and gilding the whole” – all at a cost of £28. In
other words, in the case of this very large work it
was evidently decided not to make a completely
new frame, but to update and embellish the existing
frame of ca. 1800, by adding Louis XV-style corner
ornaments, but without applying the swept edges of
the Titian and Raphael frames. Like those of Titian’s
Diana paintings this frame was destroyed in the airraid of 1941, but Smith’s intervention is illustrated
by a comparison of the glimpses of it in the Bond
engraving (see fig. 2; at the far right) and in the
photograph of ca. 1936 (see fig. 6; at the far left).


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