Framing Old Masters

Over the course of time many old masters have received unsuitable frames which generally display one or more of the problems illustrated in the examples below.

Before

After

GIOVANNI BELLINI (1430-1516)

Virgin and Child, c. 1480-85

Glasgow Museums and Galleries

Since the 19th century, this painting has been swamped in a Victorian Rococo style Gallery frame, the polar opposite to an authentic setting, created by this high quality reproduction of an original Italian Renaissance tabernacle frame.

Before

After

HANS HOLBEIN THE YOUNGER (1497-1543)

A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell?), 1526-8

The National Gallery, London

It was hard to focus on the sitter surrounded by a blaze of synthetic tortoiseshell in this 20th century reproduction frame. The oak frame is authentic for the period perfectly complementing the blue background and squirrel with an acorn.

Before

After

REMBRANDT VAN RIJN (1606-1669)

Self Portrait, c.1636-68

Norton Simon Museum

The heavy corners and centres as well as bright gilding of this anachronistic French 18th century frame disturb the composition. Following cleaning and conservation, the portrait was further enhanced by the sympathetic colour of this 17th century Dutch frame veneered in palisander wood.

Before

After

MEINDERT HOBBEMA (1638-1709)

Wooded Landscape with Watermill, c.1665

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

This major landscape was previously fitted into a magnificent French 18th Century portrait frame turned sideways, creating an over-the-top presentation with distracting ornamentation. By contrast the antique period Dutch frame both enhances perspective and harmonises with the artist’s palette allowing our calm contemplation of the subject.

Before

After

JAN DAVIDSZ. DE HEEM (1606-1684)

Still Life with a Wine Glass, Lemon Peel, Peaches, Grapes and Cherries on a corner of a partly draped Wooden Table

Private Collection.

The previous reproduction Louis XV frame was a stylistic mismatch, clashing with the still life’s composition and colour scheme. The painting was transformed by this antique Dutch 17th century ebony frame giving an uncluttered focus and intensification of the image.

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