18th century French frames and their ornamentation

by The Frame Blog

This article by Bruno Pons was first published as ‘Les cadres francais du XVIII siècle et leurs ornaments’ in Revue de l’Art in 1987 (no 76, pp. 41-50), and is republished here in an English translation by The Frame Blog

Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, Portrait du Président de Rieux, 1741 Salon, pastel & gouache on paper, J. Paul Getty Museum

The 18th century had a particular attachment to richly carved and gilded frames. Using specific examples from amongst the most sumptuous of these objects, this essay by Bruno Pons suggests methods of dating them, and new stylistic links between designs and the framemakers’ workshops. It was first published in the Revue de l’art, in the special issue devoted to picture frames (no 76, 1987, pp. 41-50).

The gilded Rococo style has become in some ways the characteristic French frame. It gives the impression of having kept its worth or its symbolic prestige for a long time, even into the present century.

Little study has been made of French frames – their creators, their decoration, or their dates [1]; however, the discovery of the stamped signatures sometimes carried on the reverse of some frames has opened new possibilities for research. A register of these marks has recently been undertaken; to the stamps of Dumont and the Infroits we can add those of Letonné and Chérin [2]. They are rare, appearing quite late in the 18th century, following the example of furniture marks, and are typical of woodworkers. When Chérin appends his stamp to the mark JME of the Jurande de Menuisiers – the guild of joiners – he is doing this in the rôle of a mundane woodworker, even though he is also a master carver. As well as this aspect, we need to consider the production of frames from the point of view of both painters and carvers; to pin down their rôles in the trade and manufacture of frames; and finally to try to make connections between frame styles and the designers of ornament.

The frame trade in Paris

If we only take an interest in outstanding frame designs which result from a private commission or the employment of a talented master carver, then we are ignoring the main body of frame manufacture.

Henri-Pierre Danloux (1753-1809), Baron de Besenval in his Salon de Compagnie, 1791, o/c, 46.5 x 37 cm., National Gallery. NG6598

Most of the frames to be found in the collections of connoisseurs were less impressive – as can be seen in the albums of interiors by Jean de Julienne, drawings of various collectors’ galleries, Hubert Robert’s drawings of M. de Breteuil’s or Mme Geoffrin’s houses, or in Danloux’s painting of Baron de Besenval. All of these reveal very simple frames [3].

Etienne Jeaurat (1699-1789), Family in an interior, c.1745, chalk & gouache, 48 x 64cm., National Galleries of Scotland

However, fine frames became absolutely indispensable in the collector’s gallery. Blondel d’Azincourt, in his Première idée de la curiosité, emphasizes the need to display pictures properly:

‘The Dutch and Flemish do not bother about frames, and leave their pictures under a layer of grime, cramming them together one on top of another, and putting a very mediocre work or a bad copy beside another of intrinsic worth in which monetary value plays no part. I can only compare this want of taste to a beautiful woman who appears in public in dirty linen, who never washes, and who uses neither rouge nor beauty spot.’ [4]

Savary de Bruslons indicates different types of frame in his Dictionnaire du commerce:

‘Picture frames can be divided into plain gold mouldings, Roman frames [‘Salvator Rosa’ patterns], frames with swags and festoons, decorative or cartouche frames, centre & corner frames, and frames with overall ornament.’[5]

L. Courajod, Le livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, extract

The dealers’ shops could provide all these; we know that Lazare Duvaux ordered wooden frames from the cabinetmaker Oeben, and sold others made of cedarwood [6]. Another dealer, Gautrot, described on his 1737 trade card the different kinds of frames he sold; they were the kind which did not require the ministrations of a master carver:

‘Gautrot, dealer at the sign of the Ville de Rome, quai de Mégisserie, Paris, buys and sells all kinds of paintings, portraits, drawings and prints… and mounts prints under clear glass, in plain gilt frames with cartouches or in the Roman style, in cedarwood frames, imitation cedarwood, cherry wood, pierced walnut, and in every style; mounts prints on canvas and frames them in fluted mouldings, all at a reasonable price’ [7]

The dealers could only be middlemen so long as the master painters and carvers of the Académie de Saint-Luc had the right to sell their own work directly to the client. Not all of the latter had shops attached to their studios, but a number of them specialized in selling frames of all kinds. Every carver could make and sell frames, and for the majority this became their principal activity. The existence of a single guild for artists and carvers at the same time encouraged trade between the two groups. Only the most talented of these carvers created the opulent frames which have survived the longest.

The desire for fine frames spawned cheaper versions on the market during the period of the Régence: frames which imitated carved wood, but which were actually made of simple plain mouldings decorated with ornaments cast in plaster or papier mâché [8]. In 1722, the Chevalier de Camilly discovered that the frames which he had just bought from Tramblin were not carved wood but moulded plaster; his neighbour found the same thing when he examined those which he had recently acquired from Delaunay. This business, which was brought before the guild of painters and carvers, aroused intense feeling, and the carvers tried to fight this new practice: although, in spite of repeated attempts during the next eight years, the guild was forced to accept it – since some of its members continued to make composition frames and the practice became widespread.

Stamp on the reverse of an 18th century French frame decorated with moulded ornament. Photo: Bruno Hochart

For example, in the mid-18th century Louis-Petit de Bachaumont wrote to the Maréchal d’Isenghein, who was furnishing his country house, advising him to buy composition frames from Delaunay. The manufacture of these frames had been accepted, but the makers were obliged to stamp the backs of the frames with the inscription ‘ouvrages de composition’ (works in composition), the term ‘composition’ referring to the materials employed, not to the originality of the finished work.

In order to try to get a more exact picture of how the various dealers operated, we can examine the posthumous inventories of those members of the Académie de Saint-Luc whose principal activity was dealing in frames, rather than painting or sculpting. We shall look first at André Tramblin (d.1742), then Guillaume Bouclet (d.1757), Pierre Delaunay (d.1774), and Jean Jamet (d.1778).

André Tramblin was an artist who taught at the Académie de Saint-Luc; his sons followed in his footsteps, one of them working with his father, the other specializing in the design of opera and celebratory events [9]. Tramblin was known particularly for his copies of paintings by, for example, Lancret, sold at low prices to serve as overdoors, etc. At his death his house on the Quai des Gesvres – one of his sons remained at the Pont Notre-Dame – contained, in both the ground-floor shop and the workshop on the fourth floor, an enormous number of giltwood frames, which were valued from 5-18 livres each. He also sold such things as console tables and carved ivory Christs. He worked as a gilder, and also painted and varnished interior panelling – for instance in the house of Mlle de Sens, in the rue de Grenelle, under the direction of her architect, Aubry. His clients – for both paintings and frames – were certainly not other than aristocratic: they included the Marquis de Laigle, the Prince de Chalais, the Prince de Grimberghem and the Marquis de Chabanais. The architect Jean-Baptiste Leroux commissioned a special frame for one of his buildings from him in September 1738.

André Tramblin (d.1742), frame for a Coronation portrait of Louis XV by François Stiémart after Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1739, private collection

In September 1739 he delivered a frame for the portrait of Louis XV, by Stiémart after Rigaud, which was to be given to the Swedish Count Gyllenborg, and cost 850 livres. The frame was worth almost the same as the painting, which had only cost 900 livres.

The majority of his frames seem to have been made and sold on the spot, but in 1742 [the year Tramblin died] a certain number of them were still out with various gilders. Drouart the gilder had 68 moderately important and 115 smaller frames; Marin had 43; whilst the Sieur de Rège claimed to have none of Tramblin’s frames, having sold them all against his own bills to various dealers. These frames stored with the gilders do not therefore seem only to have been sent out to be finished: Tramblin is actually their supplier. Pierre Delaunay, another member of the Acadèmie de Saint-Luc and shortly to be married to Marie Tramblin, organized his trade on the same lines [10].

Guillaume Bouclet’s practice was slightly different. In an advertisement of 1713, he described his activities like this:

‘Bouclet, painter & gilder, makes and sells all kinds of work in paint, gilding and carving, such as oval & rectangular picture frames, looking-glass frames, clock & console bases, stands of porcelain or ormolu; he makes tabernacles, other Church furnishings and clerical staffs, chandeliers, reliquaries, religious & history paintings, Court portraits, paintings of flowers, fruit & landcsapes for overdoors. He buys, sells and restores old paintings, relines and renders them like new; presents all kinds of prints in clear glass, made up in in cedar wood frames; he also mounts prints & drawings on canvas; supplies fluted mouldings (gilded or plain); and in general whatsoever comes under the heading of art, all completed meticulously and at a reasonable price; and he undertakes all kinds of interior painting and gilding’ [11].

Rue de la Juiverie, Notre-Dame, Ile de la Cité, Paris, where Bouclet’s shop stood

When he died in 1757, senior director of the Académie de Saint-Luc, he left two sons who had already succeded him. His shop in the rue de la Juiverie near Notre-Dame, at the sign of the fir cone, benefitted from its proximity to the cathedral. As supplier to the Cardinal de Noailles, Archbishop of Paris [12], he specialized in devotional and sacred pictures, copies of work by the painter Cazes, and plaster Christs after Girardon. He sold small consoles and fonts, and had a large stock of gilded Roman frames, as well as others in laquered silver and white wood, and – especially – numerous cartouche frames in ‘random’ styles: in other words, second-hand [13]. His frames appear to have been of not such high quality as Tramblin’s.

The products of Jean Jamet’s workshop, on the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, belong to this same rather inferior class. Jamet, a carver, restricted his output to looking-glass and picture frames [14]. Certain carvers specializing in frames advertized themselves as both carvers & gilders, as for example did Van Heck, who supplied the Prince de Grimberghem, limiting their activities to the two skills necessary to produce frames [15].

The frame and its decoration, as an objet d’art

Designers of ornament found in the frame a vast field open to the fruits of their ingenuity; one which went beyond the straightforward production of a border intended to display a painting. This inflation of the ornamental is characteristic specifically of the 18th century. The 17th century had certainly known how to produce very rich frames of superb ornamental detail and in precious materials, for altarpieces, miniatures or small portraits, the opulence of the frame magnifying the precious qualities of the object it was enclosing. Exceptional work was thus used to frame rare objects. The spread of ornamental carving in the interior [on carved wooden panelling, or boiseries] during the reign of Louis XIV encouraged the the production of giltwood frames, on which the decoration rapidly came to mirror the more daring tendencies of successive fashions. Since the carvers, more than the dealers, were in charge of selling their products, these frames depended for their effect upon the quality of their ornamental carving. Framemakers in the late 17th and early 18th centuries also noted in their invoices that their works were carved and gilded, imitating bronze or ormolu. The intention of reproducing more precious materials is obvious.

Organ of the Chapelle Royale de Versailles by Robert de Lalande & others, Versailles. Photo © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Marc Manaï

From 1692 the Livre commode des adresses de Paris notes that,

‘Amongst those carvers known for their beautiful frames, the most select are Messieurs Le Grand, rue des Jeuneurs; Renauda, rue du Petit-Lion; La Lande, rue Saint-Martin; and Vilaine, rue Neuve Saint-Médéric, who also produces gilded furniture’ [16].

Robert de la Lande would produce a large number of frames for the Bâtiments du roi, and for the Condés at Chantilly. Several years later, when Florent Le Comte was writing an account of the 1699 Salon, which had been arranged in the gallery in the Louvre, he was visibly struck by by the frames of the pictures, and emphasized the novelty of this:

‘I must say, without any shilly-shallying, that the frames of these Pictures are in general composed of mouldings so suited to the ornaments which enrich them that a better marriage could not be desired, and that neither the eyes nor the soul could demand anything better in this genre without wishing for the impossible. As for the style of their enrichment, its charm is not merely in their overt beauty – in what strikes the eye – but in those plain areas or reposes outlined by burnished facets, which reveal the matt surface to greater advantage, giving a new lustre to the tender rose-coloured ground, and where a soft lacquer helps at once to protect the work and to render it delightful to the eye. For all this, the work would have been without effect if the carver, so enthusiastic in his work, had not taken the time to restore and recut the details which the gesso, with its many layers, might have muffled and killed’ [17].

Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, Portrait du Président de Rieux, 1741 Salon, pastel & gouache on paper, J. Paul Getty Museum

Throughout the century, the importance given to frames and their decoration continued to grow. There are reports at the Salon of privately-commissioned picture frames – such as the one which in 1741 displayed the pastel portrait of Président de Rieux by La Tour: ‘This picture will always be a masterpiece of its kind, and to give us an idea of the price, the frame and glass alone are said to have come to 50 louis’ [18].

The frame is thus noted independently of the picture; its ornamentation singles it out. In 1753 the Abbé Le Blanc criticized the exaggerated importance given to a mere accessory of the painting: ‘It is not right that the opulence of the frame should strike the viewer more than the picture,’ and he added, deploring the decadence of decorative painting:

‘In a room ablaze with gold, how could [such things as] the overdoors of the Pont Notre-Dame have been allowed in? These wretched pictures in proximity to the richest of furnishings are a ridiculous pairing: to be content with a poor imitation of Lancret, because one does not want to pay more for the painting than for the bizarre cartouche which frames it!’[19]

Carle van Loo, Portrait of Louis XV, frame by Beaumont, given by the king to Cardinal de la Roche-Aymon, private collection; detail of crest

This criticism – rare evidence as to the general evolution of the decorative arts – demonstrates how, over 50 years, the picture frame had become the touchstone of taste. It is too often forgotten that the object of one of the most celebrated of the Marquis de Marigny’s remarks on the new fashion in ornament was a frame, and not an interior. Marigny writes to Soufflot on 18th March 1760, on the frame of his own portrait by Roslin,

‘I don’t want any more of your modern crinkly foliage – I don’t want any more of your antique austerity – neither the one nor the other. Enough of such ‘good taste’ in frames’ [20].

Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (1724-80), two details of a sketch of Roslin’s Portrait of the Marquis de Marigny on relevant page of his catalogue of the Paris Salon, 1761, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

The frame was commissioned from the carver Honoré Guibert, who produced it at the same time as a very rich frame for the portrait of Louis XV by Louis-Michel Van Loo [21]. Both were admired at the Salon of 1761. The article in L’Avant Coureur took care to set things straight, according to their relative value:

‘The painting, drawing the eye directly, hardly left a glance for the frame; however, there are frames which are worth examining, and M. Guibert’s are of this number. The example surrounding the portrait of the King by M. Michel Van Loo is a masterpiece of the military trophy frame; the palms and bay leaves with which it is enriched are composed with an expert and orderly hand, doing honour to the taste of the artist. The frames on the portraits of M. le Dauphin, M. le Marquis de Marigny, and several other frames decorated with well-chosen flowers, equally distinguish his taste.’ [22]

Frames and their designers: the cartouche and the shaped frame

The frame intended for the portrait of Marigny alluded to his activities: it had a crown of flowers at the crest, a compass, and a pencil-holder tied with ribbons. In this case, the rôle of the client in the creation of the frame is clearly visible, but generally it is impossible to trace the conception of the frame so accurately. Meticulous research needs to be undertaken to work out from all the possible candidates who might have shared in such a commission; and with precise enough examples the rôle of artist, architect, carver and designer can be assessed.

Jean-Marc Nattier (1685-1766), Madame Henriette de France jouant de la basse de viole, 1754, château de Versailles. Photo: Christophe Fouin

First of all, the artist: La Tour and Nattier were closely involved in the framing of some of their pictures. The carver Louis Maurisan, who produced frames for both painters, submitted invoices in 1748 for framing portraits of Louis XV and Marie Leczynska: ‘Maurisan’s time for designs, including one for M de la Tour,’[23] whilst a bill for a frame executed in 1754 by the same carver carries the note,

‘Memorandum of works of carving, joinery and metalwork carried out in the service of the King by order of M. de Vandières, Director-General of the Crown Properties, and to designs agreed by M. Nattier…’[24]

We do not have the designs for these frames, in default of which it is difficult to confirm whether the artists were also the authors of the frame designs, or if they inspired them; or whether they were happy just to accept the designs suggested to them.

L.Silvestre, Paysage avec pont à gauche dans un cadre, drawing, O.884, Beaux-arts de Paris, l’école nationale supérieure

A drawing in the Masson Collection, however, shows a picture in its frame accompanied by an old hand-written inscription: ‘L. Silvestre made this in 1731’. This drawing emphasizes the unity of painting and frame, the picture being of John the Baptist, which the frame echoes with its two putti playing with lambs [25]. Another design – although for an overdoor – was produced in 1746 by Charles Parrocel for the Château de Choisy. The artist presented his draft for the painting within a drawing of a frame, which was more highly-finished than the sketch for the painting itself; it is decorated with carved heads, like those he had drawn of the king’s soldiers [26].

Jacques de Lajoüe (1687-1761), two designs for frame corners, 18th century,  ink & wash, 20.2 x 30 cm., Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. CD 261

Only a drawing by the artist Lajoüe, which incorporates several alternatives for a frame, can be considered as a design by a painter which was actually intended to be carved; but Lajoüe’s prolific output as an ornemaniste fitted him for this type of designing even more than his talents as a fine artist [27].

Pierre-Charles Trémolières (1703-39), The Assumption of the Virgin, St Bruno-les-Chartreux, Lyon. Photo: Jean-Marie Refflé, DRAC, Lyon

When it was the question of a particularly important and monumental frame being commissioned, the architect himself might play a part. Thus Jacques-Germain Soufflot created the design for a Rococo frame which was carved by Frans Van der Leyden in 1746; it was made for The Assumption by Trémolières [and another for its pendant, The Ascension of Christ] for the church of St Bruno-les-Chartreux, Lyon [28]. Commissions for the most opulent frames went to the carvers who could produce appropriate designs most rapidly; this is certainly the case for two of the carvers working for the Crown.

Jean-Jacques Baléchou, engraver, after Thomas Laîné; plate 10, Livre de divers dessins d’ornements, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Thomas Laîné has left two designs for frames, which we know through the engravings of them made by Jean-Jacques Baléchou; both show a corner of the frame and the profile [29]. Laîné had been employed by the Crown – the Batiments du Roi – before moving to Avignon in about 1712, where he had a business as a carver and decorator. However, it seems certain that it was definitely he who in 1717 delivered a richly-ornamented frame to the church of Saint-Leu-Saint-Gilles for the investment of Louis XV (when he succeeded as a minor to the throne). The picture was painted by Justina – a protégé of the Regent’s – and showed the King, the Regent, the Duc de Bourbon and the courtiers [30]. The worth of the canvas had been assessed by Coypel at 3,000 livres, and the carving of the frame at 260 livres. It was gilded by Goulet and fitted at the Palais-Royal, before being taken to the church for which it was destined.

In 1724 another carver of the Batiments du Roi, François Roumier, designed and engraved a Livre de coins de bordures [31]. The presentation of these engraved models is the same as chosen by Baléchou – but without showing the profiles – to the point that the prints have been regarded for a long time as designs for interior cornices. Roumier was perfectly capable of composing the ornaments appropriate to such frames himself; this explains why the sketches accompanying frame commissions (for portraits of the King which were intended for the Marquis de Montpipeau and the Abbé d’Antin) were only given simple indications of the richness of the design to be exceuted, and no detailed drawings of the decoration needed to be given to him by the agent, Robert de Cotte [32].

Drawings for the frame of the portrait of Louis XIV by Charles Le Brun given by the King to the Duc d’Antin; Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris

Likewise the drawing which survives amongst Robert de Cotte’s papers for the frame of a large portrait, Louis XIV on horseback by Charles Le Brun, given by the King to the Duc d’Antin, is only a brief outline designed to judge the weight to be given to the royal arms at the crest of the frame, with no indication of the ornamental detail which the carver would have had to be able to create [33].

Another carver, Michel Lange, seems to be himself the creator of the designs for the monumental frames commissioned in 1729 for the Hôtel de Ville, Paris [34].

J-A. Meissonier (1695-1750), design for the frame of La chasse du Roy, Oeuvre, pl. 40-41 & detail

The ability of particular carvers [to design frames when required] does not rule out the participation of ornemanistes at other times. In 1730 the king had a huge canvas by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, which showed a hunt in the forest of Saint-German, installed in the château de Marly, and Sébastien-Antoine Slodtz carved a very grand frame for it, at the cost of 2,000 livres. Slodtz’s own talents in the matter of ornament might make one think him the author of the design for the frame, but its presence amongst the engravings of Juste-Aurèle Meissonier prove that the drawing was by him, as designer to the King’s Apartments [35].

It is not surprising that a period which invested so much importance in frames in general – painted, engraved or carved, where their essential character resided in the cartouche – should set store on achieving meticulously-created settings. In the contemporary interior the decorative style was based on panels framed in borders enriched with sculptural mouldings and carved motifs; and the essence of such ornamental work, whether engraved or drawn, is expressed in the cartouche – in which artists created the most varied effects. The terms which were employed on the presentation to the Académie royale de Peinture et Sculpture of the metalworker Le Blanc’s diploma piece are particularly revealing of the connections between the engraved cartouche and the carved frame. His work is even more interesting in that it allows the difference between the designer of ornament and its producer to be clearly seen.

Charles Boit, Charity, enamel plaque, with frame by Jean Le Blanc, gilt bronze, 1718, Musée du Louvre

The minutes of the Académie note that on the 30 April 1718,

‘M. Jean Le Blanc, born in Paris, who applied for admission on the twenty-seventh of November in the year 1717, brought the piece required of him, which was a cartouche of gilt-bronze on which are three medals cast in silver, one with a portrait of Monseigneur le duc d’Orléans, Regent of the Kingdom, another with France writing on a shield, and the third with France giving the helm of state into the hands of Monsieur le Régent, the whole serving as the frame for an enamel by Monsieur Boit.’

In the minutes of 7 May, the words used are subtly different:

‘Monsieur le Directeur stated to the company that he had informed Monseigneur le duc d’Orléans, Regent of the Kingdom, that the Académie has accepted an historic frame of gilded bronze, ornamented with a medal holding his portrait, with two emblems, which is Monsieur Le Blanc’s presentation piece; the said frame having been placed on a picture painted by Monsieur Boit, which His Royal Highness has given to the Académie.’ [36]

The enamel plaque by Charles Boit, given in 1717 to the Académie by the Regent, has been transferred from the collection of the latter to that of the Musée du Louvre; it retains the gilt bronze frame, signed and dated ‘J. Le Blanc f. 1718’ [37].

The author of the minutes calls this sumptuous object first a ‘cartouche’, and then a ‘frame’. The latter word (bordure) is most frequently used for 18th century frames, whilst the word ‘cartouche‘ suits the very graphic nature of this bronze.

Gilles-Marie Oppenordt (1672-1742), drawing for a frame with the arms of the Regent of France, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Le Blanc worked for many years for the Crown, supplying the royal palaces with candelabra, lighting brackets and other ornaments, but he does not appear to have produced the preparatory drawing for his diploma work, which without doubt belongs to Gilles-Marie Oppenordt; there are two surviving drawings by Oppenordt of frames with the Orléans arms, which can only be understood in terms of this piece by Le Blanc [38]. Neither drawing is exactly to the same scale as the frame. Because of the importance given to the ornamental motifs in the design, it might have been expected that the drawings were intended for a large-sized work carved in wood, whereas actually they are for a precious miniature work, ornamentally as bold as any work by a goldsmith. The presence of the two circular spaces, one in the crest, the other at the side (as the design is only for the left-hand half of the frame, three spaces are understood), correspond to the three medals, which Oppenordt does not reproduce. The work as made by Le Blanc does differ slightly from the two drawings, but the style of the frame is clearly from the hand of Oppenordt. The exceptional nature of the piece also meant that the work is signed and dated, which is very rarely the case with wooden frames.

Frame and designs for frames

It is difficult to establish the dates of frames. The time of a picture’s completion allied to the style of the ornaments of the frame can sometimes give valuable clues. It can therefore be suggested that the frame for Hyacinthe Rigaud’s Portrait of the Maréchal de Villars is more or less contemporary with the completion of the painting in 1704 [39]. The corners and centres project very little beyond the contour of the frame; the ornaments are such as can be found on the interior door-frames of the royal palaces.

Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), La pêche, o/c, c.1585-88, 136 x 255 cm., and detail of La chasse; both Musée du Louvre

The principal paintings in displayed in Louis XIV’s various residences throughout the 18th century were given very beautiful frames. However, only La chasse and La pêche by Carracci still possess (or, more exactly, have regained) their original frames, decorated with ornaments eloquent of the beginning of the century [40]. Without being accurately dateable, they exemplify the type of frame which was preferred for the royal palaces. The corner cartouches are still not too emphatic. and the overall design of the frame does not highlight the individual parts which later years would focus on. The Louvre still possesses very many of these frames in the royal style, which suggest that a campaign of framing and reframing was carried out during the period 1710-30. It may also be the case that a number of these frames were commissioned for the exhibition of the most beautiful of the King’s paintings at the Hôtel d’Antin in Paris, at the beginning of 1715. Carracci’s La chasse and La pêche certainly appeared there; Correggio’s Mystic marriage of St Catherine was temporarily stored at the Hôtel d’Antin, and has a frame which might well date from the period [41]. The decoration of the frames on La chasse and La pêche takes the form of unbroken ornament, with no interval of unadorned wood; it also includes the trellis-like background known as ‘diapering’.

This style can can be linked to two red crayon drawings, one again in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the other in St Petersburg [42]. The royal monograms, the fleur-de-lys, the closed crowns and the figure of Apollo in a sunburst leave no doubt as to the provenance of the drawings, or their purpose. The centres and corners they feature are clearly emphasized and have complex cartouches; there is abundant ornamental decoration.

Joseph Parrocel (1646-1704), The boar hunt, c.1700, o/c, 109 x 104.1 cm., & detail; National Gallery NG6473 

Two more fine frames in the National Gallery, London, decorated in the corners and centres with hunting trophies, heads of deer and hounds, can be linked to this group, since their decoration is closely related to those just mentioned [43].

After Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), Charles I & his family, frame by Michel Lange; collection of the Earl of March, Goodwood House

The collection of the ducs d’Orléans at the Palais-Royal drew the attention by its splendid presentation, which included the frames of the paintings. Few relics of these settings have survived. The great Van Dyck portrait of Charles I and his family, however, has luckily retained its frame, decorated with the arms of Orléans, which was probably created in the lifetime of the Duc, even if it cannot be dated more precisely. The major part of this frame is a plain undecorated moulding, the ornament being confined to the corners and centres, as if applied onto the structure of the frame.

H. Hadamart, The Salon of 1699, engraving

This appears to be the one of the more common types of frame on paintings exhibited in the Louvre, according to a small engraving of the 1699 Salon [44]. The Regent did not neglect his own collection, and he redecorated his apartments in the Palais-Royal to enhance their presentation.Design for the frame of a painting in the collection of the Régent in 1719, Archives Nationales, Paris

A crayon study for a frame recently acquired by the Archives Nationales is inscribed on the back, ‘for HRH 1719’, thus designating the Regent and also having the advantage of a firm date [45]. On the recto there is an inscription reading, ‘fiddle player and the eater… [illegible] / 2 of the same design.’ Comparison with the inventories of the Orléans collections reveal that the design in question was intended for Gerard Dou’s Violin player, and Frans Mieris’s Young girl eating oysters (Dutch courtship).  These two paintings are now [respectively in the Liechtenstein Collection, and the Fitzwilliam Museum] in Britain and have lost their 18th century frames; they were arched at the top, as the design for the frame indicates [46]. They must effectively have been displayed as a pair, since Dezallier d’Argenville suggests that both of them hung on the wall opposite the windows in a bedroom of the private apartments reserved for the Duc d’Orléans in the Hôtel Duplessis-Châtillon, Rue des Bons-Enfants.

This anonymous drawing for a frame has obviously nothing to do with the designs produced by the Régent’s architect. As we have already seen, the treatment of ornament by Oppenordt continually poses the problem of size. In a drawing in Stockholm, he has produced two different ornamental themes for a rectangular frame, both with the same profile – a very different profile from those preferred by the Crown. The decoration of the two alternatives are stylistically different from each other, and also from all the other ornamental schemes of the first half of the century – as is the case with all Oppenordt’s work [47].

All the major producers of rocaille ornament took an interest in the art of the picture frame. It is therefore not surprising that the carver Nicolas Pineau should have left several designs for frames [48].

Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743), L’innocence, 1743, o/c, 89 x 90 cm.; frame attrib. to Nicolas Pineau; Musée du Louvre

Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743), Le leçon de musique, 1743, o/c, 89 x 90 cm.; frame attrib. to Nicolas Pineau; Musée du Louvre

We don’t know the frames corresponding to these drawings, but features from Pineau’s panelling turn up again in the two asymmetric frames surrounding Nicolas Lancret’s L’innocence and Le leçon de musique in the Louvre. The very idiosyncratic shape of both paintings explains why they have managed to keep their frames since the 18th century. They were executed to the king’s commission by Nicolas Lancret in 1743 – a date which is exactly compatible with the style of the frames. However, it has not been possible to establish the final destination of both works, as the accounts of the Bâtiments du roi make no mention of payments to Nicolas Pineau for that particular year [49].

Nicolas Pineau (1684-1754), design for a frame carved with a wild boar’s head, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Nicolas Pineau has left another design for a frame [besides that illustrated above] ornamented with hunting trophies and the head of a wild boar. The inscription on the drawing (previously in the Polovtzoff collection, now in the Hermitage) gives the height [within the sight edge], ‘from the bottom of the rebate 4 feet 3 1/4‘, and the width, ‘3 feet 2 1/2 from the base of the rebate’, and adds, ‘the body of the frame which M. Natier [sic] sent me is 3 feet 3 1/4 / these dimensions are the size of the portrait of Madame la Marquise de Pompadour – 29 May 1747 to which something will have to be added to give a bit of play.’ [50] These references indicate that the frame is meant for the great portrait of Madame de Pompadour with the attributes of Diana, painted by Nattier in 1747. Was this design actually executed? – it is doubtful.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88), Lady Alston, c. 1753-60, in a frame with the arms of Mme de Pompadour, and detail with diapering; Musée du Louvre. Photo: Sailko

There is, indeed, a large frame stored in the Louvre, in which the frieze is carved with panels of diapering decorated with numerous small towers (the emblem of the Marquise was three towers on an azure field) [51]. Its original measurements are not known, as it had been cut down to frame Gainsborough’s Portrait of Lady Alston before it entered the collection of the Louvre.

Fronton with the attributes of Mme de Pompadour, frame now on Gainsborough, Lady Alston

The ornaments which survive on it are particularly revealing: the crest has the crown of the Marquise, and an emphatic fronton displays the attributes of music and the sciences.

Trophy of palette, brushes, bow & quiver, frame now on Gainsborough, Lady Alston

It might be thought that a frame with these symbols was designed for a portrait of the Marquise as patron of the arts, as in La Tour’s pastel portrait of her, but the presence at the bottom of the frame of a small trophy of painting and of the hunt makes it equally suitable for the portrait by Nattier [52]. However, the carving of the ornaments does not correspond to the usual style of Pineau’s workshop. Although it is always rash to attribute a frame to a particular craftsman, its style is such that the name of Jacques Verberckt inevitably crops up – the creator of the major part of the panelling at Versailles.

Veronese (1528-88), Eliézer et Rebecca, 366 x 240 cm., frame by Jacques Verberckt, and detail; Salon d’Hercule, Château de Versailles

The treatment of the ornament on the inner mouldings and the central cartouches is very close to those on Verberckt’s frame for Veronese’s Eliézer et Rebecca, which hangs on the chimneypiece of the Salon d’Hercule.

François Boucher (1703-70), La chasse au léopard, 1736, Musée de Picardie, Amiens

There are also similarities to the frames of the group of paintings known as Chasses en pays étrangers, now in the Musée de Picardie, Amiens, and painted for the Château de Versailles [by some of the greatest Rococo artists, including De Troy, Parrocel, Boucher and Pater]. Under this hypothesis, the assumption would be that Nicolas Pineau had lost the commission for which he had producing a drawing, and it had gone to a carver who was accustomed to working for Madame de Pompadour.

In a report drawn up for the Maréchal d’Isenghein in the mid-18th century, Louis Petit de Bachaumont gives the names of various carvers concerned in this sophisticated level of work:

‘The best carvers of frames are Morisan and Le Sueur, then Charny or Cayeux, and – for more everyday frames – one should apply to M. de Launay, Quay de Gevres à l’Etoile, and ask for the kind called composition frames.’ [53]

Maurisan, Cayeux and Charny all undertook commissions for architectural carvings. Louis Maurisan (d. 1773) received numerous commissions for frames from the Crown. His father, Charles-Louis Maurisan (d.1740), also carver to the Bâtiments du roi, had produced various pieces of work for the Condé family, notably in Chantilly. In 1750, Louis Maurisan was given the task of improving, or enriching, the antique frames on the more important paintings in the royal collection, such as the Four seasons, Bacchanal and The Triumph of Flora, all by Poussin, by adding frontons or crests so that they could be exhibited in the Luxembourg. In previous years he had provided a good proportion of the frames for new portraits of the Royal family: in 1748, for example, he delivered successively frames for portraits of the Dauphin, the king, the queen by La Tour, and the queen by Nattier ; and the following year one for the portrait of the Marquis de Tournehem by Toqué [54].

Maurice-Quentin de La Tour (1704-88), Louis XV, 1747-48, pastel on paper, 60 x 54 cm., Musée de Louvre

Maurice-Quentin de La Tour (1704-88), La reine Marie Leczinska, 1747-48, pastel on paper, 64 x 54 cm., Musée de Louvre

The portraits by La Tour are today in frames with the royal coat of arms and dolphins (top); but although the records in the archives are not very precise, the current frames on the portraits of Louis XV and his son are certainly not those delivered in 1748 by Maurisan, since those were decorated on the panels between the centres and corners ‘with a diamond-pattern and interlacing and very delicately carved strapwork’. The only frame with these details is that on the portrait of the queen (lower image), but this one has lost its coat of arms [55].

Design for a frame with the arms of the Dauphin, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris

The Dauphin’s second marriage, to Marie-Josephe of Saxony, was the occasion for new portraits to be painted. In 1749 Louis Maurisan delivered a carved limewood frame for the portrait of the Dauphin, again by La Tour. A very beautiful drawing in the Masson collection undoubtedly celebrates this union, but as ever the ornament needs to be interpreted [56]. Certain aspects of the rocaille decoration seem impossible to realize in 3-dimensional carved wood: might this be a frame intended to remain as a drawing or an engraving? The profile of the moulding isn’t shown, but the pen-&-ink hatching seems to suggest the effects of shadow thrown by solid forms in relief.

After Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), Louis XV as a child, c.1716-24, o/c, 77 x 55 1/2 ins (195.6 x 141 cm.), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Armand Vincent de Montpetit,  Louis XVas a mature man, 1774, oil on canvas on glass, 74 cm x 62 cm, Château de Versailles

Royal portraits received the richest of frames throughout the 18th century; – and it was not only the original portrait which had to be framed, but the numerous copies bestowed by the king and his family on ambassadors, foreign rulers, churchmen, ministers, and also the principal institutions of the kingdom. The relative opulence of the carving of the frame was an index of the recipient’s importance, or of the mark of esteem expressed by the royal gift. According to this scale of comparative richness, each frame would include just corners, corners & centres, plus or minus a fronton or crest, plus or minus the panels between centres and corners (i.e. a plain or decorative hollow). The mouldings of the sight and top edges were also enriched with one or several runs of decoration in line with this hierarchy.

In the early years of the century, each constituent element of the frame tended to remain independent, but the ornament spread itself progressively over the entire ogee, the frame thus becoming one single decorative unit. This tendency can be seen in a frame which was executed by the carver Beaumont for a portrait which was given in 1757 by Louis XV to the Bishop of Narbonne, Monseigneur de la Roche-Aymon [57].

The most beautiful Rococo frames owe their quality to the close collaboration between the joiner and the carver; this was such a necessity that the carver might supervise the structural work himself, and it is the reason he invoiced the client directly for it without going through the joiner, even if he had sub-contracted the work. The main profile of the frame is perhaps even more important than the arrangement of the decoration.

Drawing for the frame of the portrait of Louis XIV by Charles Le Brun given by the King to the Duc d’Antin; Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris

Several of the designs (which have already been mentioned) in the papers of Robert de Cotte, relating to the execution of frames, show that the single concern in De Cotte’s mind was to sort out the profile. Once the precise layout of curvature of the mouldings was fixed, from projecting bird’s beak to gentle concavity, he appeared happy to give every latitude to the framemakers in choosing the ornaments. The carver himself was generally content to highlight each member of the profile of the structure, before giving the greatest emphasis to the decoration of the principal hollow.

When rocaille ornaments – which had done so much for the importance of the frame – began to fall out of favour, the change of taste did not only show in a variation of ornament, but more particularly in a radical change in the profile, which became, at its most extreme, a simple rectangular section. Architectural running ornaments – rais-des-coeurs, egg-&-dart, and pearls – are used to emphasize the clear-cut articulation of the profile, in order to convey on the front plane, according to the spectator’s viewpoint, the estimated values of the perpendicular plane (the profile), and so express its volume. From this point, carved ornaments henceforth appear much more as though added onto the architecture of the woodwork [rather than growing organically out of it]. Centres, corners, and all cartouches disappeared. Artists preferred to keep the sculptural elements confined to the upper part of the frame – for example, the heavy swags which emerge from the cartouche, and are sometimes fixed with trompe l’oeil ‘nails’, to underline the effect of a deliberate lack of integration of the ornament, such as one finds explained in treatises by the woodworker Roubo. The ornemanistes, who had contributed a great deal to the development of the Rococo style, adapted rapidly to these new ideas.

Joseph-Benoît Suvée (1743-1807), St Louis receiving the crown of thorns, frame by Pierre-Edme Babel, 1772, Bishop’s Chapel, Musée Municipal de Limoges

Pierre-Edme Babel (created master in 1751; died at Kehl in 1775) carved a frame, above, for 400 livres in 1772; it was designed for the Bishop of Limoge’s chapel, after drawings by the Parisian architect Guillaume-Martin Couture, and displayed all the characteristics noted above, which led back to the frames carved by Guibert in 1760 [58].

Amongst the great royal frames produced during the reign of Louis XVI, for the king and his brothers, two examples will shed light on a couple of problems which have not been considered until now: the collaboration of different workshops and the resemblance of patterns between them.

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842), Marie Antoinette in court dress, 1778, Château de Versailles

In 1775 Boulanger, carver to the Bâtiments du roi, presented the queen with the frame of her portrait, which had been executed when she was still the Dauphine. This rich design, still in the Château de Versailles, included – amongst numerous embellishments – three putti, a tiger and a deer. Boulanger, not feeling confident himself of producing these figures, subcontracted all five to another carver, François-Joseph Duret (1729-1816). Nevertheless, in the report in the Mercure de France of the presentation of the portrait and its frame (which was gilded by Watin), there was no mention of the work of this second carver [59].

After François-Hubert Drouais (1727-75), Louis-Stanislas-Xavier, Comte de Provence, c.1774, frame by François-Joseph Duret, Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Angers. Frame later cut down for installation in the museum

Duret, being carver to the royal household, had also to provide the numerous frames required for the portraits presented by the Comte de Provence, the future Louis XVIII. One of these, rediscovered in the Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Angers, frames a copy of the the portrait of the Comte after Drouais, which Geoffroy de Limon presented to the town of Angers on 19 June 1775, together with its frame, executed the year before [60]. Had Duret worked to his own designs? He had been able to benefit in the royal household from the advice either of Chalgrin or Cauvet, with whom he collaborated.

After Antoine-François Callet (1741-1823), Louis XVI in coronation robes, c.1789, Château de Compiègne. Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (domaine de Compiègne) / Thierry Le Mage

Attributed by Pons to François-Charles Butteux (1732-88); attributed by the museum to Charles Buteux l’aîné (1719-82), design for a frame, 1780, pen, ink & watercolour, 34.5 x 24 cm., Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; 38634

Just as Duret became carver to his Highness the Comte de Provence when he established his household, so François-Charles Butteux received the royal warrant as carver in ordinary to the household of another royal prince, the Comte d’Artois, on 1 February 1774 [61]. Amongst other things he provided innumerable frames for the king.

Attributed to Francois-Charles Butteux (1732-88), design for a frame, 1777, ink & wash, 22.4 x 37.2 cm., Courtauld Institute of Art, London

Several designs from a series which has now been split up have been linked with his name; the inscription on one (Witt Library, London) reveals that in 1777 this frame with the royal coat of arms was destined for the State of Béarn, having at first been intended for the Paris Parliament [62]. The design of these frames is close to that of Duret’s, which could easily have been attributed to Butteux without archival intervention. Was Butteux working from his own drawings? There is nothing to prove the attribution of the drawing [in the Witt]; a drawing signed by Jean-Démosthène Dugourc contains a study of the fronton of a frame so close to another design attributed to Butteux that the question must inevitably be pondered [63].

The giltwood frame assumed a paramount importance to the 18th century, although in relation to interior decorative schemes from which it cannot be separated. It offered new possibilities to the makers of ornament, which were sometimes greater than those available in purely architectural decoration. The most opulent of of these possibilities were realized in the frames, in particular, of royal portraits.

The immense success of these French frames can be measured in the quantity of foreign imitations. The frames in the collection of the Elector Max-Emmanuel in Munich, Catherine II in Russia, and Frederick, Prince of Wales, were modelled in a style based on these French corner-&-centre patterns, plus or minus frontons. Similarly, in the next century, the decorative mass-production industry also concentrated on reproducing these models.

Antoine-François Callet (1741-1823), Louis XVI in coronation robes, frame by François-Charles Butteux (1732-88), 1783, Waddesdon Manor


[1] See ‘Bibliographie du cadre’, Revue de l’Art in 1987, no 76, p. 60-62

[2] Frick Library, New York; Musée du Louvre, Paris; and private collections.

[3] Bibliothèque d’Art et d’Archéologie, Fondation Doucet, MS 32.

[4] Blondel d’Azincourt, Première idée de la curiosité

[5] Henri Havard, bibliography, p. 60

[6] L. Courajod, Le livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, 1873, vol II, p.129

[7] Bibliothèque d’Art et d’Archéologie, Fondation Doucet, 107 P2, T.1.

[8] Mémoire pour les Directeurs, corps et communauté de l’Académie de Saint-Luc… contre Simon Besançon, André Tramblin et consors: [s.d; about 1725]. Archives nationales, AD VIII, 1

[9] Min. cent. CIX, 537, 5 July 1742, Posthumous inventory of André Tramblin

[10] The posthumous papers of Pierre Delaunay, Archives nationales, Y11398; cf J. Guiffrey, Artists’ sealed papers and inventories, NAAF, vol.VI, 1885, pp. 48-50.

[11] Bibliothèque d’Art et d’Archéologie, Fondation Doucet, 107, P2, vol.1

[12] Archives de l’Assistance publique, Hôtel Dieu, Fonds Noailles 1154 1, boxes 1 & 11 [1721 & 1729]

[13] Min. cent. LXXXII, 365, 7 June 1757, posthumous inventoiry of Guillaume Bouclet

[14] Min. cent. XXVIII, 468, 28 April 1778, posthumous inventory of Jean Jamet.

[15] Archives nationales, vol. 1153 53

[16] A. du Pradel, Paris directory for 1692

[17] Florent Le Comte, Cabinet des singularitéz d’architecture, peinture, sculpture et gravure…, Paris, 1700, vol. III, pp. 241-73

[18] Lettre à Monsieur Poiresson de Chamarande, Paris, 1741, pp. 14-15. [NB: 1 louis = 24 livres, so 50 louis = 1200 livres].

[19] [Abbé Le Blanc], Observations sur les ouvrages de Mrs de l’Académie de Peinture et de Sculpture exposés au Salon du Louvre en l’année 1753, p. 154. This remark seems specifically directed at Tramblin’s practices.

[20] J.-P. Mouillesseaux, in Catalogue de l’exposition Soufflot, CNMHS, Paris, Hôtel de Sully, 1980, p. 51.

[However, Svend Eriksen in ‘Marigny and ‘le Gout Grec’ ‘, 1962, The Burlington Magazine: a centenary anthology, ed. Michael Levey, 2003, p. 120 ff, makes clear that this letter to Soufflot actually refers to frames for portraits of Mme de Pompadour, rather than to the frame for Marigny’s own portrait, which is nothing if not full of ‘antique austerity’, being in an early version of le goût grec. Guibert’s own description of the frame is as follows (from the invoice quoted by Eriksen): ‘Une bordure destinée pour le portrait de M. Le Directeur et Ordonnateur general des Batiments du Roi peint par le S. Roslin./ Cette bordure a 6 pieds 1/2 haut y compris le couronnement; et 4 pieds 8 po. de large; et 6 pouces de profil./ Elle est ornée d’oves à l’antique, de graines de perles, de rets de coeurs et feuilles d’eau, surmonté d’une couronne de fleurs et pour support un Compas et Porte-Crayon liés avec des rubans: de la partent deux guirlandes agraffees par un cloud. Le bas est orné d’une seule et grande guirlande tenue par des clouds d’un angle à l’autre.‘ To précis, it was carved with running egg-&-dart, pearls (or beading), rais de coeurs and water-leaves, with a garland of flowers at the crest supported by trophies of a compass and porte-crayon tied with ribbons, with, in the corners, trompe l’oeil ‘nails’ from which depended two swags of flowers; the apron consisted of one large garland depending from ‘nails’ placed at angles to each other].

[21] Archives nationales. O 1 1922 A; S. Eriksen, ‘Marigny and le goût grec’, Burlington Magazine, 1962, pp. 96-101; and Early NeoClassicism in France, London, 1974. [NB: the portrait by Van Loo is untraced – a copy is in the Wallace Collection. A payment to Guibert of 450 louis was made on 1 September 1761, but this probably comprises part of the cost of boiseries carved for Marigny’s hôtel at Roule, as well as the frame for Roslin’s portrait]

[22] L’Avant Coureur, 7 September 1761, pp.570-71

[23] Archives nationales O 1 1922 A

[24] Archives nationales O 1 1922 A

[25] Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Masson Collection, 0 884

[26] Berlin, Kunstbibliothek; see E. Berckenhagen, Die französische Zeichnungen der Kunstbibliothek, Berlin, 1970, p. 214

[27] Stockholm, Nationalmuseum THC 2140; M. Roland-Michel, Lajoüe et l’Art rocaille, Paris, 1984, cat. no D 148

[28] Arch. Dép. du Rhône, 17 H 82

[29] B.N. Est. Ef 5 réserve, no 10 & 11.

[30] Arch. nat. 01 2848, fol. 85-86: ‘To M. Laîné the carver, for a large and very ornate picture frame ornamented with large cartouches in the corners and centres, bearing the king’s coat of arms, the sum of two hundred and sixty pounds, or 260 livres’.

[31] On Roumier see Bruno Pons, De Paris à Versailles 1699-1736: Les sculpteurs ornemanistes parisiens et l’art deecoratif des Bâtiments du roi, Strasbourg, 1986, pp. 159-62, and cat. A.

[32] B. N. Est. Ha 18, T.II, fol. 42, drawing no 2135

[33] B. N. Est. Ha 18, T.II, fol. 40: inscription on the recto (with profile), ‘Portfolio of the Duc d’Antin. Frame of the portrait of the King by M. Le Brun, given to the Duc d’Antin’, and on the verso (sketch of the crest in crayon), ‘dimensions of the King’s portrait’.

[34] M. Gallet, ‘Trois décorateurs parisiens’, Bulletin de la Société d’histoire de Paris, 1976-77, pp. 75-87

[35] J-A. Meissonier, Oeuvre, pl. 40-41; see also the catalogue of the exhibition, J-B. Oudry, Paris, 1981, pp. 132-34

[36] Minutes of the Académie royale de Peinture et Sculpture, published by A. de Montaiglon, vol. IV, p. 242

[37] Musée de Louvre, Cabinet des dessins INV. 35 583 [NB it is not discoverable online, either through the names of the makers, or via this inventory number]. See also B. Lossky, Catalogue de l’exposition L’art français et l’Europe, Orangerie, Paris, 1958.

[38] These two practically identical designs, both drawn in red ink, come from the Beurdeley collection. One is in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, INV. 21 966 [NB this drawing is not disvoverable online, either under Oppenordt’s name or via this inventory number]; the other is in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, INV. 28-879 (from the Beurdeley and Carré collection) [Ditto].

[39] For the date of the painting, see J. Roman, Le livre de raison du peintre Hyacinthe Rigaud, Paris, 1919, p. 10

[40] Reference is made to the frames of these pictures at the time of their being moved to the château de Marly: ‘2 April 1701 – His Majesty has commanded that the two great paintings by Carracci, one of a return from the hunt, the other of a fishing scene, should be conveyed to Versailles; that two landscapes by Domenichino and two ornamental basins be placed in the large gallery of Madame de Maintenon, and that whatever damage the frames have suffered by restored and regilded.’ Atchives Nationales, 01 1774, folio 127 (information kindly communicated by Charles Baulez).

[41] Léon Deshairs, Dessins originaux des maîtres décorateurs. Nicolas et Dominique Pineau, Paris, n.d., pl. 26

[42] Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, formerly collection Carré, INV. 4488 A & B, attributed to Nicolas Pineau.
Hermitage, St Petersburg, INV. 28 998, formerly the Beurdeley collection.

The corner cartouches, which have been cut at the corners with a jig-saw, tend to suggest a date later than that of the frames on the Carraccis – 1710-15?

[43] The comparison of the drawings with the actual works is not always productive of an advance in knowledge. The Print Room of the Hermitage, St Petersburg, has a rare drawing of a rocaille frame signed Jeauneaux (?) (INV. 28 096); perhaps the marble sculptor Jauniaux? Another design in the same collection corresponds with an important frame, reproduced by Serge Roche, Cadres français et étrangers du XVe au XVIIIe siècle, exh. cat., Paris, 1931, pl. 53, which remains anonymous.

[44] Charles Aulanier, Histoire du Palais du Louvre: La grande galerie, Paris, 1949

[45] Archives Nationales, Cartes et plans, Fonds Dauvergne

[46] Gerard Dou, The violin player: ‘painted on wood, 1 foot high, 7 inches wide, it is arched at the top’; cf Couché, Galerie du Palais-Royal, Paris, 1808, vol. III, p. 14. Originally in the collection of Christina of Sweden, it passed first into the possession of the Duchesse de Berry and then of Baron Alphonse de Rothschild (cf C. Styenski, La galerie du Régent, Paris, 1913, p. 104, cat. no 384). It came on the market in 1976 (shown at the Biennale du Antiquaires by Colnaghi, Paris, 1976).

The picture by Frans Mieris was ‘painted on wood, height 10 1/2 inches, width 7 1/2 inches, arched at the top’, cf. Dubois de Saint-Gelais, Description des tableaux du Palais-Royal, Paris, 1737, p. 176. Now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, in a 19th century frame (information from David Scrase).

[47] Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, THC 5113

[48] These drawings are today split between the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the Hermitage in St Petersburg (INV. 30 608). See Léon Deshairs, op. cit.

[49] The two paintings appear to belong to a group of five, which were delivered by Lancret in 1743; however the mention of payments in the Crown accounts is not very precise: ‘To the making of five elaborate paintings, all of three feet by 2 feet 8 inches, representing different romantic and pastoral subjects, each of the said 5 paintings being composed of four figures, buildings animals and landscapes, at the rate of of 600 livres each, for the whole 3,000 l.’ Two of them are in the Louvre (INV. 5610 & 5611), two others at Compiègne and one at Fontainebleau (G. Wildenstein, Lancret, Paris, 1924, no 293). P. de Nolhac was the first to put forward the idea that they could have been intended for the apartments of Mme de La Tournelle at Versailles, as Nattier also delivered paintings for this apartment in the same year. The accounts of the Bâtiments du roi did not include any statement of payment to Nicolas Pineau in 1743, and the frames could have been sent later. From 1760, the pictures were in store (Archives Nationales. 01 1965).

[50] Reproduced by E. Biais, Les Pineau, Paris, 1892

[51] Musée du Louvre; given by Robert de Rothschild in 1947

[52] The frame cannot belong to the great portrait by Boucher, as that picture appeared with its frame in a drawing by Gabriel de Saint-Aubin when it was shown at the Salon in 1757 (National Trust, Waddesdon Manor).

[53] Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Ms 4041, fol. 584-85

[54] Archives Nationales 01 1922A

[55] L. Deshairs, op. cit, pl. 28

[56] Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Masson Collection, 0 455

[57] Archives Nationales 01 1921B

[58] L. Lacrocq, ‘Un tableau de J-B. Suvée à l’évêche de Limoges’, Bulletin de la Société d’histoire de l’Art français, 1915-17, pp. 111-14

[59] Bruno Pons, ‘Un collaborateur de Chalgrin. Francois-Joseph Duret, sculpteur figuriste et sculpteur ornemaniste: son livre-journal’, Bulletin de la Société d’histoire de l’Art français, 1985, cat. no 73 d. See also the Mercure de France, April 1775, vol. I, p. 177. [Presumably Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun painted the portrait to go into this frame, or perhaps she had already begun it in 1775 but didn’t complete it until three years later. Bruno Pons does not explain the discrepancy in dates]

[60] Pons, ibid., cat. no 91 b. For the history of this portrait, see P. Bouvet, ‘La réception du portrait de Monsieur’, Communications à l’Académie d’Angers 13 mai 1983, pp. 115-23. With thanks to V. Huchard, M.-C. Sahut & P. Bouvet for their help in identifying this frame. Duret mentions delivering a frame composed of a cartouche with the Prince’s arms, swags, branches of bay leaves, egg-&-dart, water-leaves and pearls (height 7 feet 6 ins & width 5 feet 3 ins), and seven other frames, one of which was for Monsieur de Limon

[61] Min. cent. LVI, 333, 10 February 1787, inventory of François-Charles Butteux’s wife

[62] Witt Library drawing, no 4241, Courtauld Institute, london

[63] Both the drawing attributed to Butteux and that to Dugourc are in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris: respectively INV. A 38 635 and INV. 21 968. The one attributed to Butteux shows the frame hanging in relation to a low wainscot and a ceiling cornice (the top of the royal crown at the crest being flush with the cornice), a setting which does not appear to be the business of the carver. Charles Baulez has shown that Dugourc and Butteux worked together (although later, it’s true). They were both in the service of the Comte d’Artois. See Charles Baulez, ‘Il Luigi XVI’, in Il mobile francese dal Luigi XVI all’art déco, Turin, 1981, p. 15