Frames, furnishings and woodwork in the Museo del Prado (1818-38)
by The Frame Blog
Silvia Castillo Álvarez considers the first twenty years in the life of the Museo del Prado: the frames restored or newly made for the paintings as they entered the collection, and the directors, conservators and framemakers who laid the foundation of the Museum we see today.
This article was previously published as ‘Marcos, muebles y maderas: obras de carpintería, ebanistería y enmarcado en el Museo del Prado (1818-38)’ in Boletín del Museo del Prado, tomo XXXIII, número 51 (2015), pp. 100-111.
Real Establecimiento Litográfico, View of the façade of the Royal Museum from the Royal Botanic Gardens, 1829-32, lithographic aquatint with pencil & pen-&-ink, 29.4 x 42.2 cm., Museo Nacional del Prado
During the early years of the Museo del Prado, various changes were made to improve the conditions for exhibition.
Juan de Villanueva (1739-1811), Gabinete de Historia Natural, later Museo del Prado, 1785, drawing & watercolour, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando
The building had been designed by Juan de Villanueva in 1785 as the Cabinet of Natural Sciences, and was opened on 19th November 1819 as the Royal Museum of Painting, in accordance with the wishes of the king, Ferdinand VII. The number of paintings owned by this new institution began to increase dramatically right from the beginning, due both to the drive of its directors and the commitment of the king; so it became imperative not only to refurbish the internal structure of the building, but also to restore the woodwork, and to make frames for the bare canvases which were gradually entering the museum.
Although the architectural refurbishment of the museum has been thoroughly researched, this has not been the case with work carried out on the interior of the building. However, study of the documents kept in the Archive of the Museo del Prado and, especially, in the General Archive of the Royal Palace, lets us recognize the important rôle played by woodworkers (carpenters, carvers, cabinetmakers and gilders) in the programme of exhibitions during the first decades of the Museum.
The early stages of reframing (1818-26)
Reframing work in the collection began under José Fadrique Fernández de Híjar, 13th Duke of Híjar, Director of the Prado from 1826 to 1838, and became increasingly important. Great interest in the framing of the pictures, to optimize their conservation and display, was taken from the very opening of the Museum, and continued subsequently.
Fernando Brambilla, View of the rotunda of the Royal Museum, 1829-36, o/c, 91 x 140 cm., Palacio de la Quinta, El Pardo
The first directors of the Museum – José Gabriel Silva-Bazán y Waldstein, 10th Marquis of Santa Cruz (1817-1820), Pedro de Alcántara Téllez-Girón y Alonso-Pimentel, Prince of Anglona (1820-23), and José Idiáquez Carvajal, Marquis of Ariza and Estepa (1823-26) – had also promoted the restoration and the refurbishment of the building and the different exhibition rooms, focusing on the masonry, carpentry and framing.
Bernardo López Piquer, Vicente López Portaña (1772-1850), copy (1874) after his father’s self-portrait of 1840, o/c, 112 x 83 cm., Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando
The first paintings arrived in the building on 27th July 1818 , and Vicente López, first court painter, was put in charge of their conservation and restoration . Many of them needed restoring, as they had been stored in the basements of the royal palaces and were in a poor condition ,.
Location of works of the Spanish School, 1st floor, Royal Museum of Paintings, 1819; from J. M. Matilla & J. Portús, El grafoscopio: Un siglo de miradas al Museo del Prado (1819-1920), pub. Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004
In the initial months before the opening there was a great burst of urgent stretcher and frame manufacture for these paintings in order to prepare for the imminent opening of the Museum to the public; the initial display comprised three rooms on the first floor, where 311 paintings of the Spanish School were exhibited .
Catálogo de los cuadros de Escuela española que existen en el Real Museo del Prado, 32 pp., Sign. 21/1917, Madrid 1819, Museo Nacional del Prado
Invoice submitted by Vicente Rosón, 1818-19; courtesy of Archivo General de Palacio (AG LEG 5220-4)
The first craftsman whom we know was involved was Vicente Rosón, master carpenter to the Royal Household from July 1815 . We have documentary proof of his work in the Museum from late 1818 until his death in 1829: he submitted numerous invoices from 31st October 1818 to 31st December 1819 for manufacturing stretchers for the paintings ‘being restored in the workshop of the Royal Museum’ , all of them belonging to the Spanish School. These invoices, which were submitted until December 1821, are accompanied by others corresponding to the purchase of materials, further pieces of carpentry (building easels, etc., for picture restoration, carving doorcases in the exhibition rooms, and making brackets for curtains), as well as wages for time spent ‘repairing, reducing and installing frames’ .
In addition to restoring existing frames brought from the royal palaces , new frames were also produced . Various numbers of craftsmen were employed, depending on the volume of work. These might include one or two skilled woodworkers, and also an assistant or two, supplemented – if necessary – by other apprentices or craftsmen. The chief craftsman, Vicente Rosón , was responsible for every aspect of the work, supervizing the craftsmen and monitoring expenses. Although most of the work was executed in the Museum, Rosón frequently also used his own workshop, in this case indicating it in his accounts .
Possible location of woodwork workshop, Royal Museum of Paintings, probably established early 1818; Juan de Villanueva, Plan and elevation of the building of the Museum, 1796, ink & gouache, 72.5 x 119 cm., D-6406, Museo Nacional del Prado
The restoration was probably carried out in studios on the ground floor of the building , where the painting were also restored and, according to several authors, framed ; although gilding was usually done in the craftsmen’s own workshops. But, right from the institution of the Royal Museum, the authorities were aware of the importance of a woodworking department with a stable professional structure, similar to the Royal Workshops in the Palace of Madrid .
Invoice submitted by Ramón Lletget; courtesy of Archivo General de Palacio (AG LEG 5262-4)
Central Gallery, Royal Museum of Paintings; the close hang & varied genres/ sizes necessitating simple, versatile mouldings; J. M. Matilla & J. Portús, El grafoscopia: Un siglo de miradas al Museo del Prado (1819-1920), pub. Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004
Following the completion of the new frames (probably quite simple mouldings, given current fashion and also the need for speed) , both these and the damaged antique frames were sent out to be gilded. From 1819-33, the gilder who dealt with the majority of them was Ramón Lletget (or Lleget) ‘gilder on wood’  to the Royal Household from 1799 and honorary decorator of the Royal Palace from 1815 , whose work has been virtually unknown until now .
Central Gallery, Royal Museum of Paintings, showing the protective handrails; J. M. Matilla & J. Portús, El grafoscopio: Un siglo de miradas al Museo del Prado (1819-1920), pub. Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004
The work we know of that was undertaken by Lletget was the cleaning and repairing of gilding on frames for works of the Spanish School, which was carried out from 20th April 1819 to 20th March 1820 . According to his invoice, he gilded three hundred and twenty-four frames, painted the handrails of the three rooms in faux bronze, and gilded a large lantern, and also a small wooden plaque with the name of the Museum, which was installed at the entrance. The total cost of these works was 26,245 ‘reales de vellón’ (in the old currency), not including transportation of the frames to Lletget’s workshop and back to the Museum. These last expenses were borne by the gilder .
Location of works of the Italian School, 1st floor, Royal Museum of Paintings, 1820; from J. M. Matilla & J. Portús, El grafoscopio: Un siglo de miradas al Museo del Prado (1819-1920), pub. Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004
In April 1820, the Prince of Anglona took over as director of the Royal Museum. The same year the installation of Italian works in the north wing of the Central Gallery was completed, increasing the number of exhibited paintings to five hundred and twelve . This expansion ensured a continuing process of reframing, restoration and regilding. Vicente Rosón continued to submit monthly invoices for making stretchers, and for ‘wages, materials and nails and fasteners of many kinds’ until December 1823, the date when the Prince of Anglona was dismissed .
The profile of a Baroque ‘Salvator Rosa’ frame resembles the convex & concave mouldings at the base of a Doric column
Examples of ‘Salvator Rosa’ frames in the Prado; top left (behind) the edge of a ‘Mengs’ pattern with spiral leaves; courtesy Museo Nacional del Prado
New frames were also produced during this period. In the accounts submitted by Rosón in May and June 1821 he mentions making ‘Roman style’ mouldings, which almost certainly meant ‘Salvator Rosa’ frames .
Luca Giordano, Rubens painting ‘The Allegory of Peace’, c.1660, o/c, 337 x 414 cm., P-190, Museo Nacional del Prado
The paintings he was framing included Luca Giordano, Rubens painting ‘The Allegory of Peace’, and Bathsheba at her bath (P-3177); Tintoretto & workshop, Tarquin`& Lucretia (P-392); Jacopo Bassano, The forge of Vulcan (P-5263); Salvator Rosa, Marina, (P-324); Giambettino Cignaroli, The Virgin & Child with saints, (P-99), and Giovanni Lanfranco´s Funeral rites of a Roman emperor (P-234) .
Extract of an invoice submitted by Vicente Rosón, 1821; ‘un Marco à la Romana’ is the ‘Roman’ frame or ‘Salvator Rosa’ made for Giordano’s Rubens painting ‘The Allegory of Peace’; courtesy of Archivo General de Palacio (AG LEG 5220-5-3)
The price of these frames was between 476 and 945 reales, at 14 reales per foot of wood (1 Castilian foot = 0.278 m) . Some of these paintings were not exhibited at this point , so it seems that they were framed and then put into storage.
Gilding the frames continued; Andrés del Peral, gilder of wood to the Royal Household from 1785-1824 , submitted an invoice on 4th September 1821 for the restoration and gilding of 97 frames , which included Lanfranco’s Funeral rites…, mentioned above.
Juan de Juanes (1503-79), Last Supper, 1555-62, o/panel, 116 x 191 cm., Museo Nacional del Prado
In the meanwhile, from 1st June 1820 – 24th March 1822, Ramón Lletget restored 221 and gilded twelve ‘new frames’ for Italian paintings; restored the gilding of the old frame of Juan de Juanes’s Last Supper (P-846), and painted the handrails surrounding the room of Italian paintings and the Spanish rooms in faux bronze . This last account from Lletget is especially interesting, as it reveals the organization of the workshop and the criteria for restoring frames in the Museum, which turn out to be very similar to today. Referring to his work for the Italian paintings, the gilder says that he tried to clean and preserve the old gold as far as possible, but in some cases was forced to regild elements of the frame because they were in a ‘very poor condition’.
Frames of the Spanish school from the second half of the 18th century onwards were being restored and gilded at the same time; these were to be exhibited in the room beyond the circular hall on the first floor. Among them was the frame of José Aparicio’s Spanish Glories, a painting which cannot be traced today (I-11): Lletget gilded its plain top moulding and repaired the carved ornament near the sight edge .
José de Madrazo (1781-1859), Fernando VII on horseback, 1821, o/c, 353 x 249.5 cm., P-3295, in its current frame; Museo Nacional del Prado
One of the most important new findings in connection with the 19th century Spanish paintings relates to the frame made for the portrait by José de Madrazo of Ferdinand VII on horseback, 1821 ). On August 11th 1821 Domingo Dalli y Rodríguez, woodcarver to the Royal Household , submitted an invoice for repairing several mouldings (probably for Italian paintings), and for the construction of a new frame for Madrazo’s portrait. According to the carver, the frame was personally commissioned by Ferdinand VII himself, and was delivered directly to the artist .
Giulio Romano (1499-1546) after Raphael (1483-1520), The Holy Family beneath an oak tree, c.1518-20, o/panel, 144 x 110 cm., detail; Museo Nacional del Prado; & its frame montaged onto the portrait of Fernando VII
It was decorated with two orders of carving – one of egg-&-dart and another of leaf tips – a NeoClassical pattern, probably with the egg-&-dart moulding on the top edge and rais-de-coeur at the sight; it also had iron inserts on the corner joints at the back, and iron hangers . The frame now on the Raphael/ Giulio Romano Holy Family, above, may be a very good indication of the appearance of the original frame of Fernando VII’s portrait.
Vestibule of the Museo del Romanticismo, the portrait of Ferdinand VII (right) framed in a plain concave moulding, 1945-58; courtesy of Museo Nacional del Prado
Unfortunately, this frame has since disappeared; it is assumed that it was removed when the painting was sent to the Museo Romántico – now the Museo Nacional del Romanticismo – in 1923, since the portrait appears in a plain moulding in a photo taken in this museum some time between 1945 and 1958: this is probably the frame still on the picture today.
Location of works of the French & German Schools, the octagon, 1st floor, Royal Museum of Paintings, 1828; from J. M. Matilla & J. Portús, El grafoscopio: Un siglo de miradas al Museo del Prado (1819-1920), pub. Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004
During the directorship of the Marquis of Ariza (1823-26), with Vicente López in charge of conservation, interior woodwork and frames continued to be produced. The south wing of the Central Gallery was refurbished, and the redecoration of what is now Room 32 – the ‘pieza ochavada’ or octagon – began. This room displayed work of the French and German Schools . In order to complete this phase of restructuring the Museum, several craftsmen – sometimes as many as five, and one assistant – were employed. They worked from 1823-28  on assembling frame rails, as well as on various other jobs.
Vicente López Portaña, Sketch for Cyrus the Great before the corpses of Abradatus & Panthea, 1826, pencil on paper, 55.6 x 87 cm., D-5313, Museo Nacional del Prado
Because of the arrival of hundreds of works from the royal palaces and from the Academia de San Fernando, the installation of these particular rooms was delayed for several years , but the manufacturing of frames for them continued. On December 31st 1824, Vicente Rosón submitted an invoice for making the frame for the painting Cyrus the Great before the bodies of Abradatus and Panthea, which ought still to be hanging in the High Court of Madrid but cannot currently be located. According to the invoice this work ‘was then being painted by Vicente López for the Museum’; however it only stayed a short time in the Prado . The frame was apparently very richly carved in pinewood by a man called Valsaín; this carver, whose name is unknown, ‘did not like this kind of wood for carving’. The invoice amounted to 4,291 reales for the frame, including assembling it, and payment for the men who carried it to the gilder’s workshop. The invoice of the latter – Ramón Lletget – is dated 27th December 1824, and notes that that the profile of the frame was designed by Isidro González Velázquez, chief architect to the king. The invoice also describes its rich decoration, with two orders of carving – egg-&-dart and rais-de-coeur – and the finish, with areas of matte and burnished gilding; also its high price, which, ‘because of its large size… the amount of work involved, and the cost of the gold leaf’, was estimated at 8,890 reales. This amount, however, did include protective packing (in ‘fine papers and other covers’), and transport to the Museum from the Lletget’s workshop . As in the case of the portrait by Madrazo, mentioned above, the fate of this frame is unknown, although it was one of the first ones made in the Museo del Prado, probably under the guidance of Vicente López himself.
Framing under the Duke of Híjar (1826-30)
On 3rd May 1826 the Marquis of Ariza was replaced by the Duke of Híjar as Director of the Royal Museum . At that point a new phase began in the evolution of the Museum, defined by the arrival of many more paintings, including the first to be acquired by purchase, and with a corresponding increase in the production of frames; a sculpture gallery was also installed. The Museum had to close between 1826 and 1828, due to the reorganization of the collections.
The project for the future of the Museum submitted by the Duke of Híjar  included, among other things, the installation of the French and German paintings in the octagon, which was completed early in 1828 , and the installation of the Flemish and Dutch paintings in the adjacent rooms, although this was not finished until 1830 . Before that, in April 1827, a number of pictures from the Academia de San Fernando arrived at the Museum. Their frames, except those belonging to the king, were assessed by experts , and two months later the director asked the Royal Treasury for 6,000 reales to be given to the manager of the Museum in order to pay, among other things, for frames from the Academia .
Probably because of the large quantity of frames manufactured or repaired from the mid-1820s to 1830, the documentation for this period is less explicit than for the initial phase. For instance, in papers signed by Vicente Rosón and his assistants, the manufacturing of some ‘mouldings’ is mentioned, without specifying which schools of painting they were intended for , whilst several frames in ‘Roman style’, some of them square with a circular sight , are mentioned in reference to the octagon.
Francisco Goya (1746-1828), The family of Carlos IV, 1800-01, o/c, 110 x 132 ins (280 x 336 cm.), & detail, P-726, Museo Nacional del Prado
The new frames, ‘assembled and ornamented’ (as noted in the relevant invoice) are described in detail. In September 1828, Rosón signed off this invoice, which corresponded to the August just past; the frames it covers were for some of the more important paintings in the Museum, including Goya’s The family of Charles IV. This work still has its NeoClassical frame with an ovolo moulding on the top edge and beading at the sight; it was carved by Vicente Rosón and gilded by Ramón Lletget.
Bernardo López (1799-74), María Isabel of Braganza in front of the Prado, 1829, o/c, 1011/2 x 68 ½ ins (258 x 174 cm.), & detail, P-863, Museo Nacional del Prado
Other paintings in this group which received frames in 1828 (all of which were produced in Rosón’s workshop and gilded by Lletget) included Bernardo López’s María Isabel of Braganza as foundress of the Museo del Prado. It is probably still in this frame today, as the latter is described as ‘a wide wooden frame’ that is ‘richly carved’ , and the current frame is an opulent NeoClassical pattern. It is ornamented with an enriched lambrequin on a deep ogee moulding, with alternating acanthus leaves and lappets holding lily flowers with pendant buds between, and an ovolo-&-acanthus at the sight edge. Louis-Michel van Loo’s The family of Philip V – also in the group – has a frame similar to that on Goya’s The family of Carlos IV(below). The cost came to 686,525 and 1,080 reales respectively.
Louis-Michel van Loo (1707-71), The family of Philip V, 1743, o/c, 408 x 520 cm., P-2283, & detail, Museo Nacional del Prado
The framing of these paintings at this precise time was far from fortuitous: on 19th August Ferdinand VII visited the Museum in order to see the extension , and in the same month the so called Gabinete de Descanso (‘Cabinet of Rest’), was installed on the principal floor.
Location of the Gabinete de Descanso or Cabinet of Rest, 1st floor, Royal Museum of Paintings, 1828; from J. M. Matilla & J. Portús, El grafoscopio: Un siglo de miradas al Museo del Prado (1819-1920), pub. Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004
The Cabinet of Rest today (Room 39), Van Loo’s The Family of Philip V on the left; Louis XVI of France on the right [a version of Callet’s portrait at Waddesdon Manor; see Bruno Pons]; courtesy of Museo Nacional del Prado
This room was designed for the private use of the Royal Family, and was decorated for the most part with paintings related to the monarchy, including those mentioned above, which were installed here in 1834 . As the invoices for woodwork and gilding indicate, these paintings already had their new frames by the day of the royal visit .
Page from the file on María Jiménez, widow of Vicente Rosón, dated 28 September 1829, (she asks respectfully for an advance of 6,000 reales on work for the Palace of Aranjuez & S. Lorenzo); courtesy of Archivo General de Palacio (AG PER 593-47)
Rosón and his assistants continued to produce mouldings for frames until the middle of the following year , but on 4th May 1829 the master carpenter died, at the age of fifty nine . His will  specified that the heir of his assets and all his work was his wife María Jiménez, who was herself a master carpenter to the Royal Household . She is the only woman known to have been working in the Royal Museum at that time , although it is possible that there may have been others . The replacement of Rosón by María Jiménez in the picture gallery in the July of 1829 made no difference to the programme of woodwork production, which continued in the exactly the same way as it had under Rosón . Not only was the manufacture of frames not delayed, but it actually accelerated: in the second half of the year more than sixty moulding frames were manufactured. And as proof that frame production was improving, increasing amounts of information appear in the documentation, describing in detail the structure and ornament of the frames. In some cases, even the intended location was specified .
Francisco Gutiérrez Cabello (1616-70), The judgement of Solomon, o/c, 110 x 140 cm., P00571, & detail; an example of a frame in the Prado with frieze & back edge painted ochre
When the Duke of Híjar was appointed director of the Museum, there was also an upsurge in the work of gilding and regilding. Between October 1827 and August 1828 Ramón Lletget repaired some frames of the Spanish School and gilded ‘them overall, except for the back edge’ . This information is interesting because it reveals that the custom of painting the back edges of frames in yellow ochre dates from this period in the Prado – an economic measure undertaken because of the constant process of gilding or restoring gilded frames. It was a solution which was adopted more especially in the case of the plainer frames .
Luis Paret y Alcázar (1746-99), Royal couples, 1770, o/c, 237 x 370 cm., P-1044, Museo Nacional del Prado
In August 1828 Lletget gilded the new frames of The family of Charles IV by Goya and The family of Philip V by Van Loo, mentioned above, and those of other paintings which hung in the Cabinet of Rest: The Etrurian Royal family, by François-Xavier Fabre (below); the Royal couples and Ferdinand VII swears the oath as Prince of Asturias (P-1045), by Luis Paret; Anton Raphael Mengs’s Charles III and Mary Amalia of Saxony (P-2200 & P-2201), and the Royal outing on the large lake in the Retiro, by José Ribelles (P-4846) . The most expensive was the frame of the Goya, which cost 1,840 reales. The total cost of them all was 2,526 reales, with an additional 686 reales for the woodwork.
The frame now on Paret’s Royal couples – which is ‘large and plain’ – and the frames of Mengs’s portraits, carved with three ‘antique orders’ (órdenes antiguos), are most likely to have been made at that point, designed to hang in the Cabinet of Rest.
The descriptions of some of these frames have allowed them to be identified with those currently on the paintings: for instance, the frames of Goya’s and Van Loo’s works, opulent, and meticulously described in the documentation , are decorated with ovolos on the back edge, a plain wide frieze, and pearls at the sight edge.
François-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837), The Etrurian Royal family, 1804, o/c, 223 x 160 cm., & detail, P-5257, Museo Nacional del Prado
The frame of the painting by Fabre, recently restored, is decorated with four orders of carving: rais-de-coeur on the back and sight edges, a torus of imbricated bay leaves, and pearls.
Apart from the frames mentioned above, Ramón Lletget also gilded eight new plain frames for the private rooms of Ferdinand VII (one of them very large), and other six frames for pastel paintings. Between 1827 and 1829 he also made four delveries of frames for paintings of the Flemish School: in January and July 1827, and in March and April 1828. These consisted of fifteen, twelve, seventeen and thirty one frames respectively, and the total amount invoiced was 6,339 reales de vellón and 28 maravedíes (another Spanish old coin of lower value than the real). As to the woodwork, in the gilding invoices the frames are described more carefully, differentiating those ‘needing repair’ from the new-made, and adding some detail of their decoration. Between May and October 1829, Ramón Lletget worked on a hundred and seventy six additional frames for paintings of the Flemish School and on another fourteen for the Cabinet of Rest. Among these were frames described as ‘plain’, ‘carved in the Italian style’, ‘French’ and ‘with palm leaves’, and distinguished as being either ‘new’, ‘old’ or ‘antique’ .
Luis Paret (1746-99), Carlos III eating before his court, c.1775, o/panel, 50 x 64 cm., Museo Nacional del Prado
The frames ‘with palm leaves’ are most probably the NeoClassical variant of the ‘Salvator Rosa’ pattern, as on Paret’s Carlos III eating before his court, above; these have a convex top edge with acanthus leaves spiralled around it, and an astragal bound with ribbon at the sight edge, and are known as the ‘Mengs’ frame, so frequent in the Prado as to have become the ‘gallery frame’ of the Museum.
Furniture for the ‘His Majesty’s retreat’ (1830)
During the Duke of Híjar’s directorship, not only were frames and boiseries made and restored, but some striking pieces of furniture were produced, which can still be seen in the Prado. In this context there is a particular time around 1830 of especial interest, as it concerns an exceptional piece of furniture.
Ángel Maeso, lavatory of Ferdinand VII, 1830, mahogany, gilt bronze & velvet, 70 x 214 x 58 cm., O-2764, on loan to Museo Nacional del Romanticismo, Madrid; courtesy of Museo Nacional del Prado
The installation in 1828 of the ‘Cabinet of Rest’ (‘His Majesty’s retreat’, as it is referred to in contemporary documents), on the principal floor of the south wing of the Museum, has already been mentioned. This room, number 39 today, consisted of a drawing room and a privy, as in other Bourbon palaces . The latter was decorated with wall paintings executed by Francisco Martínez between 1827 and 1835  which can still be seen; there was also a lavatory of mahogany with ormolu decoration, today on display in the Museo del Romanticismo in Madrid . This item, made for Ferdinand VII’s room in the Prado, was well-known, but previously neither its maker or date were certain. Now, the accounts of the craftsman reveal that it was finished and delivered in January 1830, and that it was made by one of the most important craftsmen of the Royal Workshops, the cabinetmaker Ángel Maeso .
Detailed description of the lavatory of Ferdinand VII, invoice submitted by Ángel Maeso, 1830; courtesy of Archivo General de Palacio (AG LEG 5232-2-1)
As well as the lavatory, included with its invoice because of its importance , Maeso made nine stools of ebonized pearwood and four ebony tables for the Cabinet of Rest , in addition to twenty-two pine armchairs – the payment for which he continued to demand from the Royal Treasury for a period of almost ten years. All these items had to be made ‘in great haste’, as they had to be ready ‘for the wedding of their Majesties’ (Ferdinand VII and María Cristina of Bourbon) on 11th December 1829 , but apparently they remained unfinished, as they were decorated with ‘very rich carving’ which Maeso did not have enough time to complete. Because of this they were not delivered on time and were not approved by the manager of the Museum. Maeso repeatedly demanded payment for his work, as the numerous accounts show during subsequent years . In April 1836 the Royal Treasury valued the armchairs at 4,840 reales , an amount that Maeso, after a decade of appeals, received at last in August 1839 . According to the archives, these items were in the Cabinet of Rest in 1837 ; because of this it is thought that they were indeed finished, although what happened to them is unknown.
Framing at the end of the Duke of Híjar’s directorship (1830-38)
Frames continued to be made and repaired in the Museum simultaneously with the furniture for the ‘His Majesty’s retreat’, though at a slower pace than in before. Between 1830 and 1838, when José de Madrazo took over as Director, the Duke of Híjar encouraged further expansion of the Museum and increased the number of works on display . María Jiménez continued to supervise the joinery workshop until November 1834 (the last time her name appears in a document), and to invoice each month the wages of her craftsmen and the materials used in the Museum . There is no particularly important information about the manufacture of frames in the documents of this period; the only mention is of some frames which were ‘moulded and assembled’. However, various pieces of restoration by the gilder, Ramón Lletget, were noted from 1830 until May 1833, when accounts signed by him cease .
Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), The crucified Christ, c.1632, o/c, 248 x 169 cm., P-1167, Museo Nacional del Prado
Alonso Sánchez Coello (1532-88), Prince Don Carlos (1555-1559), o/c, 109 x 95 cm., P-1136 [now in a Baroque-style parcel-gilt black frame], Museo Nacional del Prado
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-82), The Adoration of the shepherds, c.1650, o/c, 187 x 228 cm., P-961, Museo Nacional del Prado
During that period Lletget gilded many frames for various paintings, among them Velázquez’s The crucified Christ (finished in August 1830) , Prince Don Carlos by Alonso Sánchez Coello, and Murillo’s Adoration of the Shepherds () , all of them ‘with palm leaves’ – in other words in ‘Mengs’ frames.
Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), Louis XIV, 1701, o/c, 238 x 149 cm., P-2343, & detail, Museo Nacional del Prado
The most important of the French frames in this context are that on Hyacinthe Rigaud’s Louis XIV, described as ‘antique, with three orders of carving’ (most probably the present frame, which has an enriched ovolo chain on the top edge, beading, and small imbricated oak leaves at the sight edge), and Sébastien Bourdon’s St Paul & St Barnaby in Listra, (P-2237), ‘French, made of plaster’ .
On August 20th 1838 José de Madrazo was appointed director of the Museum. A new phase began under his leadership, marked by the employment of new craftsmen and the expansion and re-organization of the framing department. However, in spite of developments later in the 19th century, it should be remembered that this important function of the Museum was instituted by the three first directors. The existence of some of the most beautiful frames of the Museum is due to their efforts and perseverance.
The Prado in the late 19th century; photo courtesy Museo Nacional del Prado
Silvia Castillo Álvarez has a degree in the History of Art from the Complutense University of Madrid, where she later achieved an MA in Advanced Studies in History of Spanish Art (specializing in the modern era) and an MA in Advanced Studies in Museums and Historic-Artistic Heritage. She has interned with the Friends of the Prado Museum and in the archival department of the National Museum of Decorative Arts. From 2014 she held a scholarship in the curation of Spanish painting up to 1700 in the Prado, where she was in charge of research into the frame collection.
This article is part of a broader study of the frames in the Royal Collection which is being carried out thanks to a scholarship for education and research granted by the Museo del Prado. The author would like to express her gratitude to Leticia Ruiz for the confidence shown by her in the possibilities of this research, as well as for her advice during its execution. She also acknowledges the contributions of Javier Portús, Manuela Mena, Javier Barón, Andrés Úbeda, Leticia Azcue, José Manuel Matilla, Yolanda Cardito, Gracia Sánchez, Helena Bernardo, Manuel Montero, Gemma García, Pedro J. Martínez and Gemma Cobo, from the Museo del Prado, and of José Luis Sancho and Antonio Alonso, from Patrimonio Nacional.
Anes, Las colecciones reales y la fundación del Museo del Prado, Madrid, Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, 1996.
Beroqui, El Museo del Prado: notas para su historia. I. El Museo Real (1819-1833), Madrid, Gráficas Marinas, 1933.
L. Díez, ‘El cuadro de Vicente López Ciro el Grande ante los cadáveres de Abradato y Pantea destruido en el incendio de las Salesas’, Boletín del Museo del Prado, VIII, 22, 1987, pp. 39-46.
L. Díez, José de Madrazo (1781-1859), Santander, Fundación Marcelino Botín, 1998.
L. Díez, Vicente López (1772-1850), Madrid, Fundación de Apoyo a la Historia del Arte Hispánico, 1999.
Jordán de Urríes y de la Colina, La Real Casa del Labrador de Aranjuez, Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, 2009.
López Castán, ‘La ebanistería madrileña y el mueble cortesano del siglo XVIII (I)’, Anuario del Departamento de Historia y Teoría del Arte (UAM), 16, 2004, pp. 129-50.
López Castán, ‘La ebanistería madrileña y el mueble cortesano del siglo XVIII (II)’, Anuario del Departamento de Historia y Teoría del Arte (UAM), 17, 2005, pp. 93-114.
López Castán, Los gremios artísticos de Madrid en el siglo XVIII y primer tercio del XIX, tesis doctoral inédita, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 1991.
López Castán, ‘Los mozos de oficio de la Real Tapicería y la creación de los muebles para la Jornada de Barcelona de 1802’, Anuario del Departamento de Historia y Teoría del Arte (UAM), XX, 2008, pp. 103-22.
López Espinosa, ‘Ángel Maeso, ebanista de la Real Casa’, in El mueble y los interiores desde Carlos IV a la época isabelina: nuevos estudios, Barcelona, Museu de les Arts Decoratives, Associació per a l´Estudi del Moble, 2011, pp. 97-112.
López Espinosa, ‘Conjuntos de muebles de caoba para el Palacio de Aranjuez del ebanista Maeso González’, in Diseño de interiores y mobiliario: aportaciones a su historia y estrategias de valoración, Málaga, Universidad de Málaga, 2014, pp. 261-75.
López Espinosa, ‘El conjunto neogótico de San Lorenzo y los artesanos que lo realizaron’, Reales Sitios. Revista del Patrimonio Nacional, 191, 2012, pp. 54-67.
de Madrazo, Historia del Museo del Prado (1818-1868), Madrid, C. Bermejo, 1945.
M. Matilla y J. Portús, ‘ “Ni una pulgada de pared sin cubrir”: La ordenación de las colecciones en el Museo del Prado, 1819-1920’, en J. M. Matilla y J. Portús (eds.), El grafoscopio. Un siglo de miradas al Museo del Prado (1819-1920), cat. exh. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004, pp. 15-124.
Mitchell & L. Roberts, Frameworks: Form, Function and Ornament in European Portrait, London, 2008.
Moleón Gavilanes, El Museo del Prado: biografía del edificio, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2011.
E. Pérez-Sánchez, ‘El autor de la decoración del retrete de Fernando VII en el Prado’, Boletín del Museo del Prado, VII, 19, 1986, pp. 33-8.
Real Museo de Pinturas, Catálogo de los cuadros que existen colocados en el Real Museo del Prado, Madrid, Imprenta Nacional, 1821.
Ramos de Castro, ‘La presencia de la mujer en los oficios artísticos’, in VV.AA., La mujer en el arte español, VIII Jornadas de Arte del Departamento de Historia del Arte Diego Velázquez, CSIC, Madrid, Alpuerto, 1997, pp. 169-178.
Ruiz Gómez, ‘Restauración en el Museo del Prado’, Enciclopedia del Museo del Prado, Madrid, Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, 2006, vol. V, pp. 1836-43.
Rumeu de Armas, Origen y fundación del Museo del Prado, Madrid, Instituto de España, 1980.
Seseña, ‘Retrete de Fernando VII’, Enciclopedia del Museo del Prado, vol. V, Madrid, Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, 2006, pp. 1853-4.
P. Timón Tiemblo, El marco en España. Del mundo romano al inicio del Modernismo, Madrid, Publicaciones Europeas de Arte, 2002.
The Velázquez room at the Prado in the 19th century
 See Beroqui 1933, Madrazo 1945, Matilla and Portús 2004 and Moleón 2011
 Pedro Moleón is the main researcher into this, although with a more architectural emphasis.
 Madrazo 1945, p. 94
 Ruiz Gómez 2006, p. 1836
 Madrazo 1945, p. 95
 On the installation of these rooms, see Matilla and Portús 2004, pp. 15 and following.
 Rosón asked for this position on June 24th after sixteen years as assistant carpenter, as ‘the most senior assistant of the workshop to the Royal household’. He replaced in this position his master, Antonio García. Madrid, ‘Archivo General de Palacio’ (General Archive of the Royal Palace, from now on, AGP), Personal (Per), box 922, file 16
 AGP, General Administration (AG), Private Accounts (CP), bundle 5,220, files. 4 and 5 (copy), accounts 1818-21
 In July 1819 two workers were paid 4 reales ‘for their help in installing the frame for Raphael’s The wonder of Sicily [Christ falls on the way to Calvary]’, (P-298). AGP, AG, Accounts of the Royal Museum of Paintings (CRMP), bundle 6,751, July 1st 1819
 In contemporary documents different payments appear ‘for twine and paper to wrap gilded frames’, most probably brought from the Royal Places. Ibid., 31st July 1820
 Sometimes the frames were made before the arrival of the paintings in the Museum, as revealed by a note sent by the Secretary of State to Vicente López about several paintings ‘by Raphael and other masters’ coming from France, which were going to be taken to the Museum and needed new frames. AGP, Reigns, Fernando VII, box 401, file 67, 1st August 1818
 Thanks to the documents it is clear that the frames and the stretchers were paid in one account, and materials and the wages of the employees in another. Ibid., file 5, May 1821
 In the same document it is noted that ‘the frames have been made by Rosón at his home’, where he also built ‘a carriage to transport the paintings to various places’. Ibid.
 During the first few years the joinery workshop, consisting of three rooms, was installed in the so-called ‘Low Hall’. AGP, AG, file 458, different accounts
 Rumeu de Armas 1980, p. 125
 On the organization of the conservation departments, see López Castán 2004 and López Castán 2005
 During the first phase of the Museum, the most important virtues were speed and economy. These points, combined with the close hanging of paintings at different levels (Matilla and Portús 2004, p. 19), resulted in very simple frames, mass-produced and adaptable to different shapes, sizes and pictorial genres. On 22nd February 1819, Vicente Mariani, who kept the record of framings and reframings , acknowledged receipt of ‘eleven bundles of gilded mouldings for frames for paintings in this Royal Museum’ sent by Luis Veldrof, senior housekeeper of the Palace. This is evidence that sending mouldings ready for assembly was a common practice. AGP, AG, file. 458, 22nd February 1819
 In contemporary documents, gilders ‘in the matt’ were frequently mentioned. These were craftsmen who specialized in gilding wood, as opposed to the gilders ‘with fire’, who gilded metals (López Castán 1991, pp. 278-79)
 AGP, Per, box 586, file 20
 Re Lletget’s work for the Royal palaces, see López Castán 1991, p. 288, López Castán 2008, pp. 131 ff, López Espinosa 2012, pp. 64-65, & López Espinosa 2014. See Madrazo 1945, p. 122 for a note on his collaboration with the Museum
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,262, file 4, 20th March 1820
 ‘…And this is the total amount for the above-mentioned 324 frames. I have borne the cost of transport to and from the Museum’. Ibid.
 Madrazo 1945, p. 101
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,220, file 5. According to the account of August 1820, Rosón also traveled several times to Aranjuez and La Granja to bring paintings back to the Museum.
 The frame known as a ‘Salvator Rosa’ or (in Britain) as a ‘Carlo Maratta’, the profile of which resembles the base of a Doric column, was used in Rome from around the 1680s until the 1760s; hence it is sometimes referred to as a ‘Roman frame’. Because of its simplicity and versatility for all genres of painting, it was often used in Europe to unify the look of the collection in a picture gallery (Mitchell and Roberts 2008, pp. 261-91); so it was not surprising that, in the early years of the Museum, this profile was chosen for the new frames. Some of the paintings mentioned here have since been reframed, however, making it difficult to prove that this was the reason for such a choice
 AGP, AG, bundle 5,220, file 5, 31st May 1821. The dimensions of the frames are expressed in feet, and describe the height and width, as well as the perimeter. In some cases, these dimensions differ from the actual measurements of the paintings, probably due to haste or inaccuracy. For this reason, this article refers only to works where there is a sufficient degree of certainty, either because the title or artist is mentioned in the documents, or because the recorded dimensions and those of the painting accord within an acceptable range, or because the relationship of the painting to the Museum gives authority
 The wood for the frame of Lanfranco’s Funeral rites… was priced at 15 reales per foot.
 These works are not included in the catalogue of exhibited paintings, which was published in 1821. Eusebi 1821
 AGP, Per, box 805, file 33
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,262, file 4
 Ibid., 24th March 1822
 It is probable that this portrait was a direct commission from Fernando VII (Díez 1998, p. 293), which would indicate that frame would be needed appropriate for its exhibition in the Museum, where it would be hung in a privileged position. In the household accounts of June 1823 there is a payment to a carpenter for reinforcing the back frame and hanging the whole work near the door of the Museum. AGP, AG, CRMP, bundle 6,751, account for June 1823
 AGP, Per, box 285, file 28
 The accounts note that he is to ‘install paintings in the gallery of the Museum’. AGP, Reigns, Fernando VII, box 400, file 24
 ‘…The frame for the painting mentioned above is forty-eight feet in circumference, with two orders of decoration, one carved with eggs, and the other with rais-de coeur. It has been carried out with all the accuracy and diligence required by the art, and it has been given four reinforcements made of iron in the corners, in order to increase its safety, and two corresponding hangers’. Ibid. On this model, see Timón Tiemblo 2002, pp. 321-22.
 Beroqui 1933, p. 124
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,220, file 5, accounts of 1823-24, and bundle 5,221, file 1, accounts of 1825-28. Some of the assistants working for Rosón were Francisco González, Diego Casado and Agustín Díe
 See Matilla and Portús 2004, pp. 21-22
 Although it has previously been thought that work on the installation was begun in 1829 (Díez, Gutiérrez Márquez and Martínez Plaza 2015, p. 336), the documents referred to here reveal that it probably began before December 1824, since it was then that a frame was finished for a painting titled Death of Cyrus the Great (probably the one known now as Cyrus the Great before the corpses of Abradatus and Panthea; AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,220, file 5)
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,262, file 5
 AGP, Per, box 512, file 12
 For this phase and the project presented by Vicente López for the Museum, see Beroqui 1933, pp. 113-16, and Matilla and Portús 2004, pp. 21-22
 Beroqui 1933, p. 124
 These rooms were opened on 3rd April 1830. Beroqui 1933, p. 129
 AMP, box 357, bundle 11,202, file 3, 27th April 1827
 AGP, Reigns, Fernando VII, box 401, file 57, 12th June 1827
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,221, file 1, 30th November 1827. In the documents dated from 1825 on, the frames appear with a number which does not appear to be consistent either with the catalogues of the Museum or the inventorial numbers of the works in their place of origin. It is possible that, once the Museum framings and reframings had been standardized, it was decided to assign a log number to the frames (both antique and newly-made), to record them. This would explain the presence on many Museum frames of old labels with a number written with brown ink beside an abbreviation ‘Rl Mo’ (Royal Museum)
 Ibid., accounts for May and June 1827
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,263, file 1, 31st August 1829
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,221, file 1, 6th September 1828
 Beroqui 1933, p. 125
 Madrazo 1945, p. 115
 According to the inventory of the royal assets taken after the death of Fernando VII, transcribed in Anes 1996, pp. 121-349
 In January, two workmen were each paid for five days’ work searching the warehouses for paintings which were to be hung in the Cabinet of Rest and, in August, four workmen were each paid for four days’ work for the actual hanging of the pictures. AGP, AG, CRMP, bundle 6,751, accounts for January and February 1828
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,221, file 1, accounts from September to December 1828, and file 2, accounts from January to June 1829
 AGP, Per, box 922, file 16, death certificate of Vicente Rosón, Madrid, 11th May 1829.
 Issued on 1st September 1826. Ibid, 9th May 1829
 AGP, Per, box 593, file 47. This work had been carried out by Agustín Díez y Francisco González, who had already worked for Rosón, and José Muñoz. AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,221, file 2, accounts from July to December 1829
 Although there are only a few documents witnessing to the rôle of women in the artistic professions in 16th and 17th century Spain, their participation was quite normal – especially after being widowed, and particularly if they had no children. They usually took over the workshop as master, controlling the expenses and the maintenance of colleagues, assistants and apprentices (Ramos de Castro 1997)
 In a letter addressed to Fernando VII on 4th May 1829, María Jiménez says that she would like to continue the work started by Rosón, ‘in order to allay the sorrow of her widowhood’. In that letter she dares to ask for this favour ‘according to the practice observed in regard to the widows of artists of the Royal House’. This phrase indicates that it was quite usual for widows to continue their husbands’ work. AGP, Per, box 593, file 47
 In the same document, María Jiménez asks the King for his permission to continue the outstanding work ‘in the way that it was being carried out by her late husband’. Ibid.
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,221, file 2, accounts from July to December 1829. In September’s accounts it is recorded that ‘another three [frames] were made, joined and moulded, one of them oval inside and rectangular on the outside, and the other two circular inside and square outside’. For example, in October mention is made that ‘nine frames of different sizes were made for the sculptor, to frame several bas reliefs’
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,262, file 5, 26th August 1828. Madrazo says that in the summer of that year many frames were sent to the gilder for repair. Madrazo 1945, p. 115
 In the accounts for the subsequent year this practice is noted: ‘Another plain new [frame], with wide mouldings, has been gilded on the front and painted yellow at the sides. Its size is 24 feet, at 16 reales per foot, 384 reales’. AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,263, file 1, 31st August 1829.
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,262, file 5, 26th August 1828
 The entries are very similar; the following is representative of them: ‘A large new frame for the Cabinet of H.M. has been gilded. It has two carved orders, with a matt scotia and a wide burnished panel, for a painting of the Family of Charles IV, painted by Goya. The size of this frame is 46 feet. At 40 reales per foot, the amount is 1,840 reales’. Ibid.
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,263, file 1, 30th May 1829
 Ibid., 31st December 1829
 On the lavatory of the Royal House of el Labrador in Aranjuez, see Jordán de Urries 2009, pp. 193-94
 See Pérez Sánchez 1986. Because of a receipt signed by the painter and dated September 1827 ‘for the vault which is being painted in the Royal Museum in front of the Botanic Garden’, it can be deduced that he had already started work by this date. AGP, Reigns, Fernando VII, box 222, file 5. In May 1834, the painter carried out ‘repairs’ in the Cabinet (AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,263, file 2, 28th February 1835). Payment for this was not approved by Queen María Cristina, because the artist had not submitted the invoice ‘in due time’. AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,263, file 2, 24th March 1835
 Seseña 2006
 For information on Maeso, see AGP, Per, box 606, file 24 and López Espinosa 2011 and 2014
 ‘…Account of the work that I, Ángel Maeso, master cabinetmaker to the Royal Household, have carried out and delivered by order of H.E, the Duke of Híjar, Director of the Works of the Royal Museum, as follows: firstly, a large lavatory has been made, the dimensions of which are as follows: length six feet and twenty inches; width twenty inches, and in the front there is a big armchair in solid mahogany the description of which is as follows: its top rail is made of the above mentioned wood in different sections, and then assembled, as are its legs and both arms. And in the above mentioned lavatory there is a hole with a trapdoor to give access to the basin, and at both sides of the armchair a cabinet, and in the right side a drawer, and in the left side a cupboard with a door, and outside there is a bas relief with a panel of rosewood with a moulding with rais-de-coeur and a gilded astragal. At the bottom there is a plinth in rosewood with a carved moulding and in the upper side of its wood panel, a moulding with a different carving, and at the front of the armchair there are two carved figures. I have installed all the ornament mentioned above, given to me by the carver to the Royal Household, as well as the toilet mentioned above, veneered in mahogany; I also installed three locks and their hinges and handles, delivered to me by the locksmith to the Royal Household, and all the exterior wood varnished and the interior wood in color imitating mahogany. Its cost, for wood, work, varnish and all the necessary items, comes to 3,486 reales de vellón’. Inside this piece of furniture, Maeso included ‘a basin made of pewter for the lavatory’. AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,232, file 2, 31st January 1830
 In the household accounts the presence of these pieces of furniture in the Cabinet is also referred to. AGP, AG, CRMP, bundle 6,751, June 1830
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,232, file 4, 10th august 1835
 Ibid., files 4 and 5
 Ibid., file 4, 13th April 1836
 Ibid., file 5, August 1839
 Ibid., file 4, 9th June 1836
 Matilla and Portús 2004, pp. 29 ff
 Accounts of 1830-34 in AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,221, files 1 and 2; bundle 5,275, file 9; bundle 5,276, file 32, and bundle 5,278, file 25. The craftsmen employed were José Muñoz, Mariano Zornoza, Francisco González and Juan García
 Lletget may have died this year or early the following year, because the last account signed by him is dated 31st December 1833. In his personal file there is a note from the General Accounts of the Royal Household, dated 23rd August 1836, in which there is mention of the payment of an outstanding account for work carried out in the Royal Palace to ‘Ms Rosa Pérez del Olmo, widow of Mr Ramón Lletget’, implying that the master craftsman had already died. AGP, Per, box 586, file 20
 That August ‘it was brought [to the Museum] from the gilder’s’ (AGP, AG, CRMP, bundle 6,751, 31st August 1830), where it had been brought in January (Ibid., 31st January 1830; laid down in Madrazo 1945, p. 120)
 AGP, AG, CP, bundle 5,278, file 25, 12th May 1833
 Madrazo 1945, p. 161
 The author is currently working on an article about the framing of paintings during the reign of Elisabeth II of Spain