Early American frames in the 17th and 18th centuries
A brief compendium of known examples, styles and framemakers, both British and American, in the first two hundred years of colonial history.
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Mrs Isaac Smith, née Elizabeth Storer, 1769, Yale University Art Gallery
In his novel, The scarlet letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne describes the main hall of Governor Bellingham’s house in Boston, in the middle of the 17th century:
‘The furniture of the hall consisted of some ponderous chairs, the backs of which were elaborately carved with wreaths of oaken flowers; and likewise a table in the same taste, the whole being of the Elizabethan age, or perhaps earlier, and heirlooms, transferred hither from the Governor’s paternal home… On the wall hung a row of portraits, representing the forefathers of the Bellingham lineage, some with armour on their breasts, and others with stately ruffs and robes of peace…’ 
The earliest frames in the colonies
Portraits in the Long Gallery at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, in 16th century versions of the cassetta; some examples from before the 1601 inventory
We are not told about the frames of those pictures, but it is clear that they, like the paintings and furniture, would have been executed in England, and laboriously transferred in the hold of some sailing ship across the Atlantic. They would almost certainly have been quite plain, with a simple architrave or entablature profile – in other words, with a flat central frieze bordered by mouldings, like a cassetta. They would probably have been made of oak, the wood most commonly used in England for the making of furniture, or perhaps of fruitwood; and they would have been stained black or painted in sober colours, and possibly parcel-gilt.
British School, William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Devonshire, 1625-26, o/ panel, 76 x 61 cm., in contemporary or original frame, Hardwick Hall, NT 1129096
These early frames were almost certainly not executed by the carvers whose work began to proliferate in domestic settings throughout Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. They were more probably made by the joiners who produced the panels for the portraits; the earliest of all being fitted to the painted panel with a system of grooved rabets and dowels to create a permanent setting, bonded to the painting . Later on, plain moveable frames might be produced by the cabinetmakers who also made interior domestic woodwork (doors, wainscoting and cupboards); possibly, in the case of a great house such as Hardwick, by the carpenter employed on the estate.
Daniel Mytens (c.1590-1648), James I of England & VI of Scotland, 1620s, o/c, 244.5 x 175.5 cm., & detail; in contemporary (possibly original) frame, gilt on a blue (restored) ground; Knole NT 129891. Photo: Laurence Pordes
Outside their role in ecclesiastical and domestic altarpieces, giltwood and polychrome carved frames began to be used in Britain for secular paintings during the reign of James I, and became more ubiquitously fashionable in the court of Charles I (1625-49). In 1627-28 Charles’s agents managed to purchase on his behalf a large part of the art collection belonging to the family of the Gonzaga of Mantua. This included works by Renaissance masters such as Mantegna (the Triumphs of Caesar), Andrea del Sarto, Titian, Van Eyck, Correggio, &c., some of which would have arrived in their original frames, whilst some were reframed for the king in Italy and others in London . From this point, the art and craft of framing in Britain began to develop rapidly from its plain, functional level to a pitch of sophistication approaching that which existed elsewhere in Europe; however, this process took time to diffuse widely through the country, and would not have done so swiftly enough to make a difference to the kinds of frames which were exported with British settlers to the New World in the first half of the 17th century.
For these settlers, the paintings they took with them would be, as Hawthorne observed, the early family portraits which formed their various pedigrees, as well as pictures of immediate family left behind in England. The Shrimptons of Boston, for instance, were sent by her father, Nicholas Roberts, portraits of Mrs Shrimpton’s parents from England; this was in September 1674, and these first two paintings were followed the next year by portraits of the couple themselves, and of Mrs Shrimpton’s grandmother and sisters:
‘. . . You will receive by Capt foster case sewed up in canvas wh your marke upon it* in which is mine & your mothers picktures. Your mothers is dun well, & I leav you to give your judgment of mine …’
‘. . . I have sent you in a case yours and your wifes picktures with your grandmothers and your three sisters.’ 
There is no indication of how these portraits would have been framed, or whether they would have travelled simply as stretched canvases in their respective cases; however, they were much more likely to have been framed in London and sent as complete works of art, ready to hang, to avoid the complication of the newly-established couple having to provide their own frames.
Anon., Elizabeth Eggington, 1664, o/c, 36 ¼ x 29 ¾ ins (92.1 x 75.6 cm.), and detail, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
Portraits sent out from England in this way, as well as those which would eventually be painted in situ for the settlers in their new lives, would have had similar plain frames in 16th century English style, since function and economy would have been more important than fashion – at least, in the early years – and would accord better with a Puritan ethos. This 1664 painting of the eight year-old Elizabeth Eggington (probably, sadly, a posthumous portrait) has a bolection frame with a plain half-round top edge above a canted back, which has been painted dark brown; this may be, or may reflect, the original finish. The portrait is one of the earliest dated paintings executed in America, and the frame is evidently the original; battered and lacking bits of the furthest back edge, it echoes interior architectural mouldings on door and window frames, panelling and cupboards, and may also show some Dutch influence. It was probably made by a joiner responsible for interior woodwork: a craftsman who could knock up the framework for a house, a chair, a bed, a chest, a roomful of insulating panelling and a simple moulding frame was a far more functional member of an infant society than the man who could carve and gild a garland of flowers.
The Freake-Gibbs Painter (fl.1670s), The Mason children, 1670, o/c, 39 ½ x 42 ½ ins (100.3 x 108 cm.), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Function was combined with the greater simplicity which was in any case expected of Puritan communities in the New World. Fashions in clothing and jewellery tended to be regulated, so that only the families of land-owners of a gentle class might wear the more luxurious items, and even these were subject to limits under the sumptuary laws. For instance, in this portrait of the Mason Children by the Freake-Gibbs Painter, who worked in Boston in the 1670s, the little girls are limited to a single slash in their oversleeves . In the same way, the painting style is deliberately simplified, in overt reaction to the opulent Baroque language of Catholic Europe; and the frame limited to the understated mouldings common in England in previous centuries, especially in the world outside the court. For similar reasons, progressive fashions in furniture, following the European styles of the time, seem to have been discouraged – and probably could not be easily or swiftly imitated, being so far away in space and time. Thus the first colonial frames, where they have survived (‘approximately forty portraits of merchants, ministers, civic officials, and their families remain’ from the 17th century ), are, until quite a late period, in the style of the unadorned frames of Tudor and early Stuart England.
The Freake-Gibbs Painter, The Mason children, 1670, details of corners top & bottom right
However, the frame of this group portrait is a more sophisticated example of the joiner’s frame than may first appear. Although it is relatively narrow the profile, with its deeply-cut round and hollow mouldings, is looking forward from the flat architrave and entablature frames of Renaissance Britain to the complex plastic forms of the Baroque (if not to their ornamentation and gilding); and the finish, which is now painted a puritanical black, was once coloured green, possibly in two shades (other works by the Freake-Gibbs painter which apparently retain similar early settings may on inspection have been reframed).
The unadorned Baroque moulding, more usually with an ebonized finish, remained popular as an indigenous style alongside the more fashionable carved giltwood frames, when they began to arrive in the 18th century. Because it seemed to reflect the generally anti-aristocratic, demotic bias of colonial society, with its Puritan roots and its simple, functional style of decoration, it tended to endure – partly perhaps as a mute comment aimed at monarchical rule from outside, and (again) partly as a reaction from Catholicism. It had the added advantage that it was extremely easy to reproduce for any carpenter or cabinetmaker.
Joseph Badger (1708-65), Lois Orne, 1757, o/c, 25 5/8 x 20 11/16 ins (65.1 x 52.5 cm.), and detail, Worcester Art Museum
It is thus still quite common on 18th century portraits, such as Joseph Badger’s 1757 Portrait of Lois Orne, and in fact it persisted well into the 19th century, particularly on provincial works. Although the profile of the frame on Badger’s painting could hardly be plainer and less ornamented, it is also a Baroque architectural moulding: a deep torus offset by an inner gilded cavetto. The combination of sculptural simplicity with the dramatic contrast of black and gold helps to define the painting and project it from its setting. It is a successful style, paradoxically both restrained and assertive; but it was also an economic choice – the prices that Badger was charging for his paintings in the mid-18th century (five guineas or £5.25 for all four portraits of Lois and her siblings, and £6 for each portrait of her parents ) indicate that the frames would have been correspondingly reasonably priced.
The first carved and gilded frames: Britain and America
Back in Britain, the commissioning of elaborately-carved and gilded frames – in the sphere of the royal court, at least – had grown rapidly from relatively early in the 17th century. The influence of Italian fine and decorative art in Britain had begun twenty years before Charles I acquired the Mantua collection, with his father, James I, and his older brother, Henry (heir to the throne until his death in 1612). Both the latter began to bring European masters into the country; and the Earl of Arundel fortuitously added Renaissance and Mannerist architectural influences when he swept Inigo Jones off to Italy in 1613.
Inigo Jones (1573-1652), ceiling of the Banqueting Hall, London, 1619; painted by Rubens (1577-1640) between 1621-34
One outcome of this trip was the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall, the ceiling of which was executed several years before Rubens was commissioned to fill the panels with paintings, and which is basically a collection of giant picture frames ornamented with classical architectural mouldings, and reminiscent of the arrangement of ceilings in, for example, the Palazzo Ducale in Venice.
Van Dyck & studio (1599-1641), King Charles I, c.1635-37, o/c, 47 5/8 x 37 1/4 in (121 x 94.6 cm), Ham House, National Trust
Venetian Mannerist motifs and decoration, also from painted stucco ceilings, perhaps imported via the picture frames acquired from Italy or made there for the king, or via the growing trade in ornamental prints, encouraged the production of British frames influenced by the ‘Sansovino’ style, decorated with scrolls and masks and raking lines.
Van Dyck & studio (1599-1641), Mary, Lady Verney, late 1630s, o/c, 50 x 40 in (127 x 101.5 cm), Claydon House, Buckinghamshire
Other influences included melting cartouches and zoömorphic motifs from engraved borders or architectural features; these coalesced into the Auricular style of frame, which grew in popularity – again, in court circles – from the mid-1620s . However, the genesis of these styles in the Stuart court and their fashion amongst Stuart nobility precluded them from travelling to the New World in any quantity, or from influencing the styles of home-grown framing which were being established there. They would also have been associated both with Catholic opulence and pagan decadence, inimical to many of the settlers.
When carved giltwood patterns did begin to make their way as acceptable frame designs in the fledgling American states, it seems to have been mainly in the form of French Baroque styles from the second half of the 17th and the early 18th centuries. This could have been due to a political inclination, since France had a much smaller colonial population and therefore less ability to exert power in the American continent, which may have helped to neutralize its deplorably Catholic tendencies from the viewpoint of the settlers. Further, in Britain the carved and gilded frame itself had begun to diffuse downward, into the middle and mercantile classes, losing something of its aristocratic exclusivity. Decoratively carved cushion mouldings had already begun to migrate from their architectural origins on cornices, doorframes and the undersides of stairs, forming simple gilded torus frames ornamented with garlands of leaves in the French style. They were attractive and more flexible for mass framing than, for instance, the architectural structures of the Sansovino style, whilst their running or centred ornament could be repeated in straight rails of any length and were therefore slightly easier and quicker to produce than the sculptural composition of an Auricular frame.
John Hayls (1600?-79), Samuel Pepys, 1666, o/c, 29 ¾ x 24 ¾ ins (75.6 x 62.9 cm.), National Portrait Gallery
By the 1660s the availability of carved and gilded frames had percolated far enough in British society for Samuel Pepys, that aspiring civil servant and diarist, to be able to order a ‘bunched-leaf’ Louis XIII-style frame for his own portrait in 1666; it combined a sculptural profile with richly-carved, lively ornament in the essence of the French Baroque style, and was finished in silver leaf, lacquered to look like gold:
‘Thence to Mr Hales and paid him for my picture and Mr Hills: for the first, 14£ for the picture and 25s. [£1.25] for the frame…’
The Freake-Gibbs Painter, John Freake, 1671, Worcester Art Museum
The Freake-Gibbs Painter, Mrs Freake with baby Mary, 1674, Worcester Art Museum
Only five years after Pepys’s transaction another portrait and its pendant, executed by the Freake-Gibbs Painter in 1671 and 1674, appeared in America. These portraits, John Freake and Mrs Freake with baby Mary, have very similar frames to that of Pepys’s portrait. They are silver-gilt with a reverse profile, and with a torus moulding on the top edge of each which is carved into an animated garland of flowers, fruit and leaves, creating a shimmer of light and movement around the paintings and off-setting the static poses of the sitters. They are very unusual for American frames of this period, but they were recorded as being on the portraits in 1796, and analysis has found that they are made from North American eastern white pine. They may have been made in the colonies between the late 17th and early 18th centuries for these or for other paintings, and may either be original to the Freake family portraits or have been later united with them. It seems unlikely that objects so dissimilar in style from the general trend in frames in the 1670s should have been executed in Boston, and that a carver and gilder with the requisite skill could have been available in Massachusetts in the 1670s, but should have left no other trace of his presence.
The Freake-Gibbs Painter, John Freake, 1671, detail
Perhaps there were indeed other frames like this which no longer survive, or they may, of course, be later than the style suggests: indigenous 18th century versions of a type fashionable earlier in Europe. However, there is one other possibility: the probate inventory of 1796 which catalogues them on the Freake portraits also notes that the paintings were recorded as having been brought from England. As they were actually painted in Massachusetts, this may be a misremembering of the fact that it was the frames which had come out from England, having been carved there from imported American pine. This is the more likely as John Freake was the grandson of a an MP knighted by James I, and had emigrated in 1658; he would have ‘brought significant financial and other resources with him from England’ . He became a prosperous merchant in Boston, and a trustee of its Puritan church, although his costume and hair indicate that he was not constrained by the stricter elements of puritanical preaching against worldliness; the same is true of the image of his wife and child.
American pine could well have been obtainable in London; some raw wood (as well as the numerous ships which were built from it) crossed the Atlantic eastward, although the long voyage made it economically unviable for Britain to import enough of the wood it needed from America. Masts were one form of wooden import which did flourish, since fir trees from New England were large and plentiful, and those from Norway were gradually being exhausted. Offcuts to ballast the hold, after cargo had been unloaded, was another possible source of wood transported back to Britain. The ships themselves were increasing exponentially in number, particularly from the port of Boston, which during the 17th and 18th centuries grew to be the largest and most prosperous city in America .
Map of Boston by Captain John Bonner, 1722, The West End Museum, Boston
‘By 1676 two hundred and thirty vessels of over fifty tons were owned in Massachusetts, and among the inhabitants there were about thirty merchants worth from £10,000 to £20,000.’ 
John Freake would have been counted amongst those thirty merchants (a multi-millionaire in 2019 terms), if he had not been killed in an accidental explosion of gunpowder the year before. He had been an ambitious and energetic man, whose estate was worth almost £2,400; he had left England in his late twenties, and had established his own family and eight children in Boston . He retained the coat of arms of his family back in Dorset, however, quartering them with those of his wife; perhaps he tried to make a similar marriage of the Old and New World when framing the portraits of himself and his wife.
By the 1750s the shipping industry would support numerous woodworkers, who – in the continual search for a comfortable living – often had a second career as cabinetmakers and carvers. In the 1670s, however, this population of artisans was both smaller and more focused on the functional aspects of their work. The Baroque silver-gilt frames on the Freake family portraits sound an alien note of luxury amongst the generally sober and unembellished native frames of the 17th century colonies; they do not appear to have been copied, or to have had any effect on the style of American framing for more than forty years.
Looking at the list of Boston craftsmen who were producing furniture in the 18th century, compiled by Myra Kaye, there are very few specialist carvers who would have been working in Boston in the 1670s: George Robinson, whose son of the same name was born in 1680, making the former the right age to be working in the last quarter of the 17th century; William Shute, who married in 1690, and his father-in-law, Edward Budd.
John Symonds (attrib.; workshop), cabinet, 1679, red oak, pine,black walnut,red cedar, maple, 18 x 17 x 10 ins (45.7 x 43.2 x 25.4 cm.), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Of course, other carvers on the list are undated, making it possible that they, too, may have had mainly 17th century careers; but given that where work can be tied to a named carver, it is usually associated with decorating chairs and chests, the likelihood of more than one or two of those producing picture frames is very small. This is especially true because of the divergence of ornament on American furniture from what might be used on a picture frame: chests, cabinets and chairs were generally given turned and geometric decoration, based on English Tudor and Jacobean styles. It seems to be only from the early 18th century that carved ornament and overall gilding began to be applied to frames as a matter of course (and in a more up-to-date fashion), and that the quality of colonial carving began to equal that of imported British work.
This was partly a consequence of the repressive laws imposed from London. By the beginning of the 18th century the fragile stability of the early settlements in America had become a sturdy and flourishing growth: the third generation of colonists was established, and was looking for something more to life than mere existence; architectural treatises and engraved pattern books started to be imported, and immigrants with diverse and esoteric skills were now continually arriving. There was a great appetite for the luxuries enjoyed in Europe, which would logically have been paid for by exporting manufactured goods as well as raw materials; however, protectionist laws (the Navigation Acts) were imposed in 1651 and 1660 which forbade exports from America being transported in any other than British ships. Further modifications to these laws in 1663, 1673 and 1696 imposed high taxes on colonial goods exported to Britain, and then on those sold between colonies. Gradually, further laws followed which were designed to discourage all colonial manufacture of goods and force the Americans to buy from England – although it became almost impossible to police these laws, since so many people on both sides of the Atlantic were engaged in smuggling.
John Cooper (c.1695-1754?), Queen Anne, c.1702-14 (?), o/c, 33 x 27.5 ins (83.82 x 69.85 cm.), Winterthur Museum
By the 1710s, early types of colonial carved and gilded frames are represented by versions of French and British Louis XIII styles, including a later incarnation of the garland frames used for the portraits of John Freake and his wife. Some of them may have been made in London, and imported to serve as templates, but it is probable that by this point they were being produced in America – in the case of the patterns above and below, in Boston . Both these types of frame contain portraits of Queen Anne by the mysterious artist J. (perhaps John) Cooper. His work is found both in England and America, and in the latter within historic collections (such as that of Yale Univsersity), where in some cases his paintings have been held almost since they were finished, indicating that he lived and worked in both countries.
His portraits of the queen and her consort, Prince George, are probably some of the first royal portraits painted in Boston, and date from the first two decades of the 18th century. During this period, Cooper’s presence in Boston is confirmed by his apprentice’s appearing as a witness to an attack on a Huguenot, Jean Berger, in December 1719. The apprentice was Felix Powell, ‘who lives with Cooper the Painter’:
‘Powell’s master probably was New England artist J. Cooper, whom art historians have speculated was English-born artist John Cooper (ca. 1695–1754), son of London art dealer and print publisher Edward Cooper (ca. 1660–1725). Many of his paintings are signed “J. Cooper” or initialled and dated between 1714 and 1718. Assuming these two painters are the same man, Berger’s suit provides the first documentary evidence of John Cooper’s presence in the colonies from 1718 to 1721.’
Sir Godfrey Kneller (after; 1646-1723), Queen Anne, engraving by John Sturt, 18th century, 13.8 x 9 cm., British Museum
John Cooper, Queen Anne, c.1702-14
Cooper was not the most subtle of portraitists; his paintings were evidently based on engravings of the official coronation portraits by Kneller and his studio, some of which would presumably have been sent out to the governors of the various American states (the engravings themselves must have travelled quite as widely). Below the level of the governor’s house there would have been many institutional buildings springing up – town halls, meeting houses, schools, courthouses, universities – which would have wanted their own royal portraits and would compound for the most wooden of icons, which in Cooper’s case bear a strong resemblance to 19th century inn signs.
John Hayls, Samuel Pepys, 1666; and John Cooper, Queen Anne, c.1702-14
The frame in this case was evidently chosen as a design which could be considered appropriately opulent for a monarch and was also still fashionable in Europe, whilst being both ornamental and easy to reproduce. Like the painting itself, the carving is quite schematic and stylized. The oval form may be partial assurance that it was made in Boston rather than London, to fit the canvas of the portrait; this form was also influenced by the trompe l’oeil frames used in the prints.
Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), Queen Anne, c.1702-04, in British oval panel (‘Lely’) frame, Royal Collection RCIN 405614
Other colonial versions of Louis XIII-style carved and gilded frames include the Anglicized panel frame (sometimes known as a ‘Lely’ frame by association with his work). This developed from the French Louis XIII convex moulding decorated with shallow-relief foliated strapwork and flowers, combined with the composition of the contemporary ‘flower corner’ pattern, also French, which together were flattened and simplified into an arrangement of ornamental carved panels alternating with plain reposes or ‘mirror panels’. The advantage of this design was that it required less carving, less labour, and thus less expence, whilst reaping the benefits of a corner-&-centre frame, where the emphases of the carved panels create focal lines which enhance the compositional lines of the painting.
J. Cooper (c.1695-1754?), Queen Anne, c.1720, o/c, 30 x 25 ins (76.2 x 63.5 cm.), Yale University Art Gallery
This second portrait of the queen by Cooper is the one which entered the collection of Yale University around the time that it was completed, in 1720, and is therefore almost certainly in its original frame. Like the setting of his oval portrait of Queen Anne, the carving is a cursory and primitive version of the pattern it imitates; it expresses the lower levels of a craft which may have lagged behind the development of other, more necessary skills in the colonies, but was now endeavouring to to catch up on almost a century of growth and refinement. It may perhaps have been carved by one of the craftsmen who specialized in carving ornament for cupboard cornices, chairs, and chests . Both the Cooper frames, however, demonstrate knowledge of the fashion in frame styles, and they acknowledge the decorative power of overall gilding.
Cooper’s frames may possibly have been gilded by Jean Berger, the painter who was attacked in 1719, the attack witnessed by Cooper’s apprentice. Berger was a painter-stainer, whose skills included japanning, decorative painting and gilding; he had been painting on board a ship in Boston harbour immediately before he was attacked, and Powell, the witness, had been sent by Cooper to meet him in connection with this painting work – possibly to serve as his apprentice while it was completed . As a refugee from Catholic France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 – an edict which had previously protected the Protestant Huguenot population – Berger would necessarily have been flexible and versatile in the use of his various accomplishments; he obviously worked for or with Cooper on other occasions, as in 1721 he sued him and his partner, Thomas Creese, ‘for failing to honour a £5 note’ . The article by Robert Leath from which this information is taken notes that Creese’s brother-in-law was an art dealer, print publisher, and cabinetmaker – William Price, who advertized that he sold, amongst prints, maps, tables and cupboards, ‘oil paintings in carved and gilt frames’ . This web of connections indicates that a workshop system was being established in Boston in the late 17th and early 18th centuries which would reflect the interconnectedness of the London worlds of fine and applied arts; and which could employ all the various artists and craftsmen needed to supply portraits made in pigments and oils on stretched canvases, finished with carved giltwood frames, to the growing population.
Anon., Governor Gurdon Saltonstall, c. 1720-25, o/c, 52 x 40 ins (132.1 x 101.6 cm.), Yale University Art Gallery
In contrast to the settings of Cooper’s work, the frame of the mid-1720s portrait of Gurdon Saltonstall, Governor of Connecticut (painted by an American or immigrant artist), appears as sophisticated as the frame of Kneller’s Queen Anne. It is a carved giltwood bolection moulding, and has the same shaped panels, the same delicate tracery of carved florets and foliage, and the same sight edge as Kneller’s oval frame. The portrait was painted during or shortly after the last years of the Governor’s life; the frame, however, is so much more developed than the panel frame on the Cooper portrait of Queen Anne that it may well be an item from Boston’s huge and important trade in British goods, rather than a home-made product. Even twenty years after Saltonstall’s portrait was painted, Bostonians were noting that frames could be ‘got in London cheaper and better than with us.’
The restrictive protectionist laws imposed on colonial manufacture were to a large extent reinforced – ironically – by the interests of colonial merchants. The thriving shipbuilding industry in Boston, the large mercantile classes (whose businesses were based on their ability to import and export goods, and to funnel them on to other states), and the tendency of a conservative settlement to look back to Europe as the index of fashion and taste, all meant that British products were seen as eminently desirable, and as an indicator of wealth and status. They continued to flow into the harbour at Boston through much of the 18th century, adding to the city’s prosperity and stimulating its growth relative to other American cities. By the 1740s it was almost half as big again as New York, it possessed around six times as many carvers as were working in New York, and its control of shipping along the colonial east coast confirmed its position as master of ceremonies and of taste.
Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), Self-portrait, panel frame applied post-1690, the Billiard Room, Burghley House
It is apparent how English this taste was in the early 18th century by comparing the portrait of Governor Saltonstall with a self-portrait by Kneller. Both use the same contrapostal pose, and wigs, costumes and colour ranges are all similar; – even the facial expressions are related: the artist of the American portrait must have been very familiar with engravings of Kneller’s work.
John Smibert and Henrietta Johnston
John Smibert (1688-1751), Jacob Wendell, 1731, o/c, 48 7/8 x 39 ½ ins (124.14 x 100.33 cm.), Milwaukee Art Museum
This is even more true for John Smibert, born in Scotland but an emigrant to America at the age of forty, who had practised (very successfully) as a portraitist in London in the style of Kneller . He had also spent three years in Italy, painting portraits and copying Old Masters. When he settled in Boston, he traded as an oil and colourman, showing his Italian copies above his shop, alongside casts of classical antiquities. These not only served as a splendid advert for his own painting abilities, but brought European art into the heart of the city.
John Smibert, advert in The Weekly Rehearsal, 21 October 1734, Boston; see also Smibert’s sale of 1735
The more expensive of the frames in which Smibert sold his ‘Italian, French, Dutch and English Prints’ were, in the 1730s, very probably Hogarth frames or a variation on them, as they would most likely have been for William Price and his framed prints. Many of these might still have been British exports in the 1720s and 1730s – perhaps for quite a long time after – since the glass had in any case to be brought from England (a successful, long-lived glassworks was only established as late as 1739 in New Jersey, the four manufactories in different states which were opened in the 17th century having each only lasted a few years ).
Henrietta Johnston (c.1674-1729), Mary Mundt of Philadelphia, 14 x 10ins, and detail, Brunk Auctions, 14 July 2018, Lot 1277 (with many thanks to Neil Jeffares)
Interestingly, a pastel painting recently appeared on the art market in a Hogarth frame; this was a portrait executed in America by Henrietta Johnston, the Huguenot artist who emigrated from Ireland to Charleston with her second husband in 1707 . She supplemented their income by the portraits she produced, and this particular example still retains (as do others of her paintings) what is most probably its original setting – in this case one of the more decorative late 17th-early 18th century Hogarth frames. This has an outer bolection moulding with finely reeded top and back edges, and a giltwood inlay with a sanded frieze and a flower-&-leaf tip sight edge. The more opulent frames were made in fruitwood with cheaper versions in pine, both of which were then stained and polished to an ebony-like sheen . They were slightly more sophisticated versions of the narrow ebonized or painted mouldings used on The Mason children by the Freake-Gibbs Painter, the anonymous portrait of Elizabeth Eggington, and Joseph Badger’s Lois Orne, which between them cover the period from 1664 to 1757. They would have aggrandized a black-&-white engraving, and set a watercolour, a pastel painting, or even a hand-coloured print, on the level of presentation of an oil painting.
The fact that John Smibert was selling framed prints from Europe in his shop indicates that he could (at least in the beginning) also have imported frames directly for his own work. However, by 1735 he was writing to a client in Newport, Rhode Island, blaming local framemakers for a delay:
‘I suppose your patience is quite tired in expecting your arms [i.e. armorial bearings], etc – but it was impossible to send them sooner. the frame makers having so much work bespoke before, and being also not disposed to work any more than necessity forced, occasioned me to call upon them at least twenty times, before Mr McSparran’s frame and yours could be got from them.’
This confirms that, if the frame of the Portrait of Jacob Wendell is the original and not a later application (it has a very narrow gilt inlay), it will also have been made in Boston. The atypical decoration of the carved panels – in English terms – indicates that by the early 1730s the population of Bostonian carvers and gilders was eminently capable of producing variations on a fashionable theme, and that, if Smibert provided English frames as templates, they could create something more lively than an exact copy: the Wendell frame incorporates motifs from other frame patterns.
The letter quoted above also includes an invoice for prints and frames (the latter probably very simple indeed in this case), and the frame and glazing for ‘your arms’ – which, in true early-Renaissance-altarpiece-fashion, are more expensive than the object to be framed:
‘In the case is
A Naval fight, Mantuanes…. 0 – 16 – 6
Scipio’s Victory, C. Cort…. 0 – 11 – 0
the Virgin, C. Moratt…. 0 – 16 – 0
frames for ye above…. 0 – 6 – 0
the Harlots Progres-Hogarth… 1 – 5 – 0
the coat of arms…. 3 – 0 – 0
a gold frame for ditto… 3 – 10 – 0
a glas for ditto…. 0 – 10 – 0
your half of the case cost…. 0 – 4 – 0
£11 – 6 – 6 ’
A detail from the map of Boston by Captain John Bonner, 1722, showing Queen Street (now Court Street), where Smibert established his shop
By 1743, Smibert was writing to Arthur Pond in London for supplies. Pond was an artist, engraver and dealer, and sent canvas, pigments and paper for making ladies’ fans out to Smibert for his shop. The shopping list sent to to him from America includes the request:
‘…what remains of the money after paying for those articles and al [sic] charges on Board please to lay out in gold leaf.’ 
This gold leaf must have been intended for the framemakers Smibert patronized (he also asked for ‘Silver leaf six thousand it cost about 10 shil[lings] per thousand]’; like other luxuries it was more economically and easily obtained in England, and with luck the framemakers were more honest than the one in London who had in some way had access to the paintings Smibert had left there:
‘…as you do not mention the Lady’s head after Titian to be amongst the Pictures stolen by the frame maker I hope you forgot to put it up with the others and that its stil at your house. If it is, be so good as send it with the things now wrote for…’ 
In 1749 he asks Pond for more supplies of gold and silver leaf, as well as a large number of black, white, coloured and purple mounts (presumably for prints), and frames:
‘2 gold frames for 2 Pictures 20 inches by 14 inches and a half. the pictures are not extraordinary, so would not go higher then 12 or 15 Shill[ings] apiece.’
The Louis XIV-style frame
Thomas Gibson (c.1680-1751), George Vertue, dated 1723, o/c, 73.5 x 50.8 cm., in British Baroque frame, Society of Antiquaries, London
John Smibert (1688-1751), Benjamin Colman, 1739, o/c, 49 ¾ x 39 ¾ ins, New Britain Museum of American Art
Smibert’s frames for his own portraits provide examples of all the main patterns in British Baroque style, and – like the frame on the Portrait of Jacob Wendell – some of them have idiosyncratic motifs, proportions or mouldings, or are put together in an indefinably different manner which points towards the development, from the 1720s and 1730s, of a genre of American frame. By comparing the English frame of Gibson’s George Vertue (an example of one of the more common Louis XIV-style patterns) with the American frame of Smibert’s Benjamin Colman, it appears that the ogee top edge of the English type tends to be slightly wider, flatter and more open, while the American top moulding is narrower and the section more erect. The characteristic shell corners of the British frame are also triangular, pushed back and palmette-like, whilst on the American version they are more definitely small curved clam shells, like a mouse’s ears.
John Smibert (1688-1751), Thomas Hancock, 1730, o/c, 30 x 25 ins (76.2 x 63.5 cm.), MFA Boston
The frame of Smibert’s Portrait of Thomas Hancock is a version of the same Louis XIV-style British frame, without the projecting corners; again, it has a steeper, narrower ogee at the top edge, and the Bérainesque foliate strapwork decorating this ogee is an individual take on the common English version; ditto the sight edge, in which acanthus leaf and shell have blended into one fan-like motif alternating with a strangely pear-shaped bud (rather than a tongue or shield).
Joseph Badger (1708-65), Portrait of a Ship Master: a member of the Parker family, c.1760 o/c, 35 x 27 ¾ ins, Northeast Auctions, 5-6 March 2011, Lot 58
The British version of these Louis XIV frames was quite an enduring style, lasting from the early to mid-18th century, and when it had been assimilated in the colonies it became equally popular. Joseph Badger, exactly twenty years younger than John Smibert and thirty years older than John Singleton Copley, replaced the former as the visual chronicler of Bostonian society until the latter overtook him. Unlike Smibert and John Cooper, Badger had been born in Massachusetts; unlike them he does not seem to have been trained in art in any way – his father was a tailor, and he himself began as a house- and sign-painter. His portraits are static, anatomically slightly uncertain, and disconcertingly share the same pair of eyes, regardless of age or sex; however, he had a respectable customer base, and produced around fifty paintings, some within the same family. Although he was not especially well-off, his clients were middle class and mainly quite prosperous, and were evidently able to afford up-to-date giltwood frames for their portraits. In most cases the provenance of these shows that they have been handed down within the family, often until the 20th century, and that these frames are highly likely to be the originals – also that they were locally-made rather than imported.
Details of the foliate strapwork on one English and three American Louis XIV-style frames; from top: British, Thomas Gibson, 1723; American, John Smibert, 1739; American, Joseph Badger, c.1760; and American, J.S. Copley, c.1760
Examining details of the shallow-relief foliate strapwork carved along the top edge of several different frames, from an English example of 1723 through three American versions of 1739 and c.1760, it is clear that, if the various carvers were copying templates, these must already have been several steps away from the original – have been, in effect, copies of copies of copies. The ornamental flow of leaves, flowers (where they survive) and strapwork is fluidly designed, but the logic behind the motifs has been lost in the recopying. In the Gibson frame a characteristic studded bar holds together the ends of two S-scrolls and acts almost like the rim of a vase from which flowers grow, whilst in the American frames this gradually becomes merely a straight element of the strapwork, which lengthens into a long scalloped ribbon, its internal rhythms lost. The S-scrolls disappear into this long ribbon, but their small scrolled ends remain, growing larger until they change into two big zoömorphic eyes balanced above what was a foliate bud, but now looks rather like a leafy moustache. It is interesting to watch this change, and to see the American carvers create their own version of Louis XIV strapwork from a memory of the British pattern.
John Singleton Copley’s frames – one of which has been used in the comparisons above – have been studied and a beginning made of cataloguing them in an extensive essay by Morrison Heckscher . He sets the beginning of Copley’s ‘interest in supplying frames’ to c.1763-64, and divides them into three categories – ebonized moulding frames, Baroque giltwood and Rococo.
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Mrs James Warren (Mercy Otis), c.1763, o/c, 49 5/8 x 39 ½ ins (126.05 x 100.33 cm.), and detail, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The ebonized frames, which for some reason are referred to as ‘Dutch style’, were used as an economic choice from the early 1750s to to the early 1770s. Copley himself, in the invoices quoted by Heckscher, refers to them simply as ‘Black Frames’, and they are basically large versions of the various types of Hogarth frame; sometimes with a bolection profile, and sometimes (as above) a hollow, and with more or fewer small gilded mouldings.
Sarah Phillips (attrib.; 1656-1707), embroidered panel, wool and linen, 17 ½ x 24 ½ ins, now set in early 18th century Hogarth frame, private collection
In one invoice, he may even be referring to the more decorative type of Hogarth frame – the pattern found on Henrietta Johnston’s Portrait of Mary Mundt, and the setting now seen as most appropriate for framing other forms of art (such as the embroidery above) as well as paintings and prints from the late 17th and first half of the 18th centuries:
‘To Making a handsome Half length Picture Frame inside edge Carvd & Gilt… £2 – 13 – 4’ .
Regarding Baroque giltwood Louis XIV-style frames, Heckscher has found fourteen examples of Copley’s work in these patterns, eight of them on works painted in 1763 and 1764:
‘There is some variation in their carving, which may indicate the presence of more than one hand, but most of them look to be of white pine and lack the reinforcing corner splines of the English product and appear, therefore, to be of Boston origin’ .
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Epes Sargent, c.1760, o/c, 126.6 x101.7 cm., and detail, National Gallery of Art, Washington
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Sarah Allen, née Sargent, c. 1763, o/c, 49 ½ x 40 ins (125.73 x 101.6 cm.), and detail, Minneapolis Institute of Arts
They also, as noted above, have a steeper, narrower and more erect ogee top moulding compared with British Louis XIV-style frames, and a greatly simplified recreation of the Bérainesque foliate strapwork which was so well-known by English carvers as to vary relatively little from workshop to workshop. Both portraits above are in this type of Bostonian Baroque, and their versions of the ornament are similarly almost identical with each other: there is just enough difference in handling to need more explanation than the three years between them, and to confirm that either two workshops, or two carvers within the same workshop, were responsible. The sight edges are particularly unlike. An invoice for one of these frames reveals its greater cost in comparison with the cheaper Hogarth frames:
‘To painting your Mamma’s portrait [Mrs John Powell]
at eight Guineas…. 11 – 4 – –
To a Gold frame for Do. At four pounds… 4 – — – –
£15 – 4 – -’ 
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Mary & Elizabeth Royall, c.1758, o/c, 57 3/8 x 48 1/8 ins (145.73 x 122.24 cm.), and detail, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Centre-&-corner (or just corner) incarnations of this Baroque French-derived style also exist; Morrison Heckscher states that those tested (by the time of his article in 1995) ‘are made of red or Scotch pine, indicating that they were probably ordered… from England’ . The frame above, however, has the same characteristics which mark out the Louis XIV-style frames without corners: the high narrow top edge, the Bostonian foliate strapwork which is shrugging itself free of its model, and – in the pierced foliate-&-shell corners – small carved daisies with pointed petals, rather than the English rose- or sunflower-like paterae. The painting dates from 1758, and shows how established this style had become since Smibert was framing his work in the same way twenty years earlier. A native framemaking trade was now flourishing, and was not blindly copying English models but developing its own subtle variants. So, too, Copley’s correspondence expresses a concern for framing his work to best effect, just like his peers in England, such as George Romney and Joshua Reynolds.
Henry Hardcastle & Stephen Dwight: Baroque and Palladian frames
Lawrence Kilburn (1720-75), James Beekman, 1761, o/c, 46 x 33 ins, New-York Historical Society. Photo: Gavin Ashworth
Baroque centre-&-corner frames were commissioned elsewhere by James Beekman, a New York merchant who had made enough of a fortune at the age of twenty-eight to buy a house, extend, enlarge and furnish it fashionably, commissioning as the finishing touch portraits of himself and his wife from the London emigré artist, Lawrence Kilburn. Payments for the paintings and their frames are recorded in his account books, quoted by Morrison Heckscher in an article on the Beekman portraits and their frames:
To [cash] pd Lawrence Kilbunn for
Drawing myne & my Wife Picture 20.—-
To [cash] pd Stephen DeWhite for the two Frames for
Ditto @ £5.15 11. 10. –’ 
Lawrence Kilburn (1720-75), Mrs Jane Beekman, née Keteltas, 1761, o/c, 46 x 33 ins, New-York Historical Society. Photo: Gavin Ashworth
The maker of these frames – Stephen Dwight, rather than DeWhite – turns out, further research having been carried out on him, to have been ‘at the forefront of carvers active in New York City during the third quarter of the 18th century’ . Like the Beekmans, he was of Dutch extraction, born in New York around 1736, and had been apprenticed to an emigré English carver called Henry Hardcastle. Hardcastle worked in New York until 1755, having arrived some time between 1743 (when, if it is the same man, he took on an apprentice in his London workshop), and 1751, when he was made a freeman of the city of New York. In this relatively short period he seems to have influenced the style of woodcarving in the area quite strongly – possibly because there were hardly any other carvers with English training, unlike the case in Boston.
Lawrence Kilburn, James Beekman, 1761, detail of corner
The Beekman frames are interesting in that they show far less movement away from the British type of late Louis XIV/ Régence-style frame; they still have the opened out, shallow profile of the latter, with a wide, gentle convex curve down to the sanded frieze. The corner shells are also reversed and pushed back, in the English fashion, with a more triangular contour and a rosette patera inside. The shape of the whole corner, above the textured grounds of top moulding and frieze, is much more shield-shaped, again as in British frames and unlike Bostonian frames, where the edge of the ‘shield’ running diagonally across the mitre is just another piece of strapwork formed of three scallops.
Hardcastle was extremely influential in transmitting his style of carving, especially given that Dwight and another apprentice broke their indentures by fleeing from his house in 1755 . At that point, Dwight was 19, and Hardcastle would probably have been about 37 or so. He could only have had Dwight in his house for three or four years, and yet his apprentice had absorbed all the structural and ornamental features of the British Baroque frame; he also seems to have taken over Hardcastle’s clients in some way in 1755, after which the older man moved to Charleston and died in 1756. Hardcastle may have been temperamentally difficult, or possibly an alcoholic: something which accounted for his leaving his London workshop and then having his New York shop collapse, since he was evidently both a good carver and teacher.
Henry Hardcastle (fl. 1736-1756), interior of the first floor southeast parlour, and detail of chimneypiece in the second floor parlour, Philipse Manor, c.1750, Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation
One of his early works in New York had been to execute the interior panelling and chimneypieces in the grand mercantile home of Frederick Philipse of Philipseburg Manor in Yonkers, north of the island of Manhattan. This was accomplished in Palladian style, full-scale Rococo boiseries never having caught on in Britain, where curvaceous forms and rocaille ornaments were reserved for furniture (especially seats), frames, details of stucco and panelling, and other decorative arts such as silverwork. The fluent, deep-relief naturalistic detail of the chimneypiece frieze in the second floor parlour (above) demonstrates Hardcastle’s skill as a sculptor
Nothing was known of Hardcastle’s English origins until he was identified with an apprentice of the London carver Henry Leech (see note 38); however, it could also be that he was born or trained further north, in the city of York. Several cabinetmakers of that name are recorded in Yorkshire, notably Aaron Hardcastle, who was born in 1724 just outside Harrogate, and who had a brother, Henry, born three years later (this would make the New York carver relatively young, at 23, to have produced the assured carving of the Philipse Manor, but not unwarrantably so). There was a flourishing provincial school of carving centred on York; the competition this produced, and the rumours of rapid economic expansion in America in the mid-18th century – especially in New York, which was now beginning to overtake Boston in wealth and growth – may have been enough of an incentive for a young man of twenty or so to emigrate to the colonies. Thomas Chippendale (1718-79), who was born in Otley, a few miles from Henry Hardcastle’s birthplace, left Yorkshire in 1748 to make his way in London.
Chippendale had ‘spent some time in the workshop of Richard Wood, a York joiner and cabinetmaker’ , and it is possible that Henry Hardcastle too may have been apprenticed to Wood. If he sprang from Yorkshire soil, it was at least very fertile ground, since William Kent had also been born on the Yorkshire coast.
William Kent, Stowe House, Buckinghamshire: Elevation and Section of Chimney Piece in the Hall, c.1733, with bar scale of ½ inch to 1 foot; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Henry Hardcastle, detail of chimneypiece in the second floor parlour, Philipse Manor, c.1750
The style of the New York Hardcastle seems to have encompassed elements of the Palladian, which Kent reinvented, and motifs in English Rococo, which Chippendale would help to diffuse and transform. Both styles were present in the structure and decoration of English looking-glasses and chimneypieces from the 1720s-40s, perhaps indicating the area in which Hardcastle had been trained. The emigration of Hardcastle, and of others like him, was of even more importance to the development of carving and gilding in the colonies than the growing trade in European pattern books. With the arrival of such experienced artisans the craft was given an injection of the robust practicality which only the establishment of a flourishing workshop could produce.
Lawrence Kilburn (1720-75), Abraham Beekman, 1760, o/c, 47 x 38 ½ ins (119.4 x 97.8 cm.), New-York Historical Society. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Morrison Hecksher speculates that the Beekman frames by Stephen Dwight might have been based on the English Baroque frame found on another portrait by Lawrence Kilburn, of James Beekman’s brother, Abraham. Perhaps this might even have been one of Hardcastle’s, brought with him to New York as a sample and taken over by Dwight; although it looks too fussy for Hardcastle’s strong and fluid style.
State portraits and their frames
John Shackleton (d.1767), George II (r.1727-60), 1740s-50s?, o/c, 238 x 145 cm., Huntingdon Town Hall, UK
Another way in which an English stylistic influence entered the colonies was by way of the so-called Governors’ portraits. Paintings of George II were given to ambassadors and to the governors of British colonies as a sort of badge of office, commissioned and issued by warrant of the Lord Chamberlain, who paid the artist’s and the framemaker’s bills. These portraits were hung ceremonially under a canopy or Cloth of State, the setting and the gilded crown at the crest of the frame contributing to the effect of the king in his robes materializing at the moment of his coronation before his distant subjects, and thus reminding them of their oaths of fealty. George II appointed Gerrard Howard (c.1709-81) as Royal framemaker, the son of the previous office-holder, on his accession in 1727. Howard held the post for a quarter of a century, until 1752. He made the frames for a great proportion of the huge number of state portraits painted during George II’s 33-year reign by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Charles Jervas, William Kent, and – the King’s favourite – John Shackleton .
John Shackleton, George II (r.1727-60), detail of corner
The frame on the Huntingdon Town Hall portrait of George II is almost certainly one of Gerrard Howard’s; it is in late Louis XIV/ Régence-style, like the James Beekman frame by Stephen Dwight, and – if the corners are compared – it can be seen how close they are in both structure and motif.
Lawrence Kilburn, James Beekman, 1761, detail of corner
The Régence style grew out of Louis XIV Baroque, and immediately preceded the Rococo. In terms of frames, the all-over foliate and strapwork decoration of the rails in a Louis XIV frame shrank back in a Régence pattern towards the corner and centre cartouches, to be replaced by trailing sprigs of leaves and flowers. The frames of official Royal portraits were not particularly elaborate; they were well-made middle ranking frames, whose glory resided in the flourish on the crest of the three-dimensional crown in its nest of supporting palm branches.
Charles Willson Peale, George Washington at the Battle of Princeton, 1783-84, o/c, 93 5/16 x 57 1/16 ins (237 x 145 cm.), Princeton University
A number of Shackleton portraits in their Gerrard Howard frames must have been shipped across the Atlantic, en route to every Governor’s palace and to other institutions as well. In 1752 Howard retired and René Stone took his place as Joiner of the Privy Chamber, producing frames for state portraits to the same design as his predecessor. Stone’s technique, however, was slightly different: the corner-&-centre cartouches become more plastic, with pierced scrolling and deeper relief, and the crown and palms at the crest are now carved almost completely in the round. One of these framed coronation portraits was presented by Governor Belcher, the governor of New Jersey, to Princeton University sometime between 1749 and 1752 to celebrate the university’s receiving its renewed charter. It hung in the main hall of the university until, during the Battle of Princeton in 1777, British troops took refuge there from Washington. Washington cannonaded the building, and – according to the apocryphal story – one shot blew the head off the portrait of George II. The frame survived relatively unscathed, so the damaged canvas was stripped out, the crown removed from the crest, and in a highly symbolic gesture a portrait of the victorious Washington by Charles Willson Peale was set into it .
The frame on Peale’s George Washington at the Battle of Princeton: restoring the crest. Top: Shackleton, George II; Peale, the frame before restoration; Shackleton, Queen Caroline; the frame after restoration
The place where the crown and palm branches had been rather ruthlessly sawn off the Princeton frame remained clearly visible. Restoration of the frame was completed some years ago, and, although a replacement for the crown or a republican equivalent were discussed, it was thought a better solution would be to restore it just with recreations of the palm leaves, to maintain a sense of the crest whilst respecting the adventures undergone by the whole object.
With the accession of George III in 1760, the production of state portraits and their frames became a small industry, with Allan Ramsay as a Principal Painter in Ordinary to the King from 1761, and René Stone continuing as royal framemaker. Ramsay and his studio produced over ninety replicas of his original portrait of the king, of which 52 were for colonial governors, most of them now seemingly untraceable (possibly there were mass bonfires at the end of the War of Independence). Information on the frames comes mainly, therefore, from those produced for British and European recipients. Until 1773 they continued to be made by René Stone, while from 1774-84 they were framed by Isaac Gosset, like Stone a carver of French Huguenot extraction .
Allan Ramsay (1713-84), George III and Queen Charlotte, c. 1762, Charleston Museum
The pair of portraits now in the Charleston Museum were probably painted for the Duke of Bedford, British Ambassador to Paris from 1762-63. The frames, like the images they contained, varied very little from each other, both being products of a workshop – Ramsay having assistants to work on the costumes and settings, while he painted the face and tweaked the final results. In the same way, Isaac Gosset and René Stone will have had journeymen and apprentices to work on the carcases of the frames; the masters may have done more or less themselves, from carving the cartouches to perhaps a little recutting of the gesso. However, this industrial production of portraits and frames meant that the colonies received, between 1762 and 1784, probably thirty to forty examples of Huguenot carving and gilding in the British idiom. These frames were now indisputably looking towards the Rococo with their greatly enlarged centres and corners, and the three-dimensional sculptural shells at the centres.
The Rococo style had been relatively slow to infiltrate Britain; it was several years after its full flowering across the Channel that both the fine and decorative arts in England began to be fully influenced by French styles. This change was helped by the Huguenot carvers and gilders who had settled in London and the South-East, after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 removed their religious protection as Protestants in a Catholic country. Pattern books in the Rococo taste also began to be published in the 1730s , and by the mid-18th century the style in frames was at its height of popularity. At the same time, greater numbers of craftsmen began to emigrate to the American colonies from Britain, and a slew of the newly-published engraved designs accompanied them. The colonies were prospering; the Puritan ethic of seeking wealth and progress actively, as a moral good, was setting in motion the gigantic economic and manufacturing forces which would reach their apogee in the 19th and 20th centuries. America seemed to be a nirvana for workers to take refuge from the economic decline which Britain was undergoing during the second half of the 18th century.
One of these migrants was the Irish carver Hercules Courtenay, who had been apprenticed in 1756 to Thomas Johnson, the leading proponent of the Rococo style; he travelled out to Philadelphia in 1765 to work – possibly under a contract, or as an indentured servant – for the cabinetmaker Benjamin Randolph. By 1769 he was advertizing (presumably by this point as an independent artisan) that he could execute
‘…all Manner of Carving and Gilding in the newest Taste, at his house between Chestnut and Walnut on Front Street’ .
William Long of Soho, who had subcontracted work from the important partnership of James Whittle and Samuel Norman during the 1750s and -60s (for whom Thomas Johnson also worked), moved likewise to Philadelphia, where his arrival was noted in a newspaper of 1785 as ‘William Long, cabinet-maker and carver, from London’.
John Wollaston (c.1710-post 1775), Philip de Visme, 1749-52, o/c, 30 x 25 ins (76.2 x 63.5 cm.), Dayton Art Institute
Artists followed similar migration patterns from England (as John Cooper, John Smibert, and Lawrence Kilburn had done); John Wollaston, for example, a British artist who worked in the colonies from c.1736 to 1769, moving from New York to Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina (his work seems to have influenced Benjamin West), although he returned home for his final years . Captain Philip de Visme, of French Huguenot extraction and a family settled in London, must have been painted by Wollaston in New York, probably to celebrate his marriage to Ann Stillwell in 1751. The frames for their respective portraits are in characteristic British Rococo style, and were probably shipped from London (De Visme was in the British army), since there were at that point very few experienced carvers and gilders working in New York – saving, of course, Henry Hardcastle, who was made a freeman of the city in the same year that the De Vismes were married.
John Wollaston (c.1710-post 1775), Mrs Nathaniel Marston, née Mary Crooke, c.1751, 50 x 40 ½ ins, Museum of the City of New York. Photo: Suzanne Smeaton
Wollaston’s portrait of Mrs Nathaniel Marston, also of around 1751, has a direct link to Henry Hardcastle’s work in that her daughter Margaret (b. 1728) married Philip Philipse, of the family of Frederick Philipse of Philipseburg Manor. In 1750 Hardcastle had executed the interior panelling and chimneypieces of the manor house, using what was mainly a Palladian style, with the odd Rococo flourish and sculpted panel. The frames on Wollaston’s set of portraits (which include those of Nathaniel Marston, and Philip and Margaret Philipse) are in a form of the rocaille style favoured by William Hogarth, and found in the album of designs collected by the London Huguenot carver Gideon Saint (see below), but of a more generic cast; again, they are likely to be British imports rather than made in New York. Hardcastle is, however, still possible as the local carver, since he had arrived in New York around 1743, and Hogarth was commissioning this style of frame in the London of the late 1730s.
Joseph Blackburn (fl.1752-d.1787), Colonel Theodore Atkinson, 1760, o/c, 50 x 40 3/8 ins (127 x 102.6 cm.), Worcester Art Museum
Joseph Blackburn, who was born and died in Worcester, England , but worked in various colonial centres in Bermuda and New England between 1752 and 1764, was another exemplar of the Rococo both in his paintings and the frames containing them. His Portrait of Colonel Theodore Atkinson shows an up-to-date version of the Rococo emerging in the colonies; a style expressed in the vocabulary of immigrant British craftsmen such as Hercules Courtenay and William Long.
Rococo patterns: top left, on Joshua Reynolds, Mrs Abingdon as Miss Prue, 1771, Yale Center for British Art; top right, Blackburn, Colonel Atkinson, 1760; bottom, Peter Lely, Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, Yale Center for British Art
Blackburn’s frame was probably imported; it has certainly been executed by a carver who is familiar with the style of English Rococo frames from the early 1750s-60s – for example, in the two versions of pierced hollow frames shown here, on the left and bottom – and it is probably the choice of the artist. Joseph Blackburn may have trained as an assistant in a major London studio, such as those of the portraitists Thomas Hudson and Joseph Highmore, but perhaps found the competition there too great to set up his studio. He introduced to the American colonies an accomplished style of portraiture in the Rococo mode, and would have expected to have had his work framed in the fashion with which he had been familiar in London.
Colonel Atkinson was the Chief Justice of New Hampshire Superior Court; several others of Blackburn’s sitters came from New Hampshire, and also from Boston, and it would have been easy for him to have obtained imported frames from Boston, or to have found a framemaker there capable of producing what he wanted. His preferred style, like this on Colonel Atkinson, seems to have been for a wide sculptural border, gadrooned, pierced and decorated with foliate sprigs and florets, the outer edge of the frame cascading in a complex arrangement of interlinked ‘S’ scrolls.
Gideon Saint (1729-99), Scrapbook of working designs, c.1760, collages of prints & drawings, two of Thomas Johnson’s frames on left, plus detail of the page, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
All these elements can be found in Britain on frames around portraits by, for instance, Hudson, William Hoare and William Hogarth. They also appear in the scrapbook of designs compiled by a Huguenot carver, Gideon Saint, who ran a workshop in Leicester Square, London, in the 1750s and 1760s. His handmade book documents the day-to-day borrowings of a framemaker keen to keep up with prevailing fashion (including Thomas Johnson’s designs); it also indicates the range of patterns which would have been eagerly awaited in the colonies, again as an index of the up-to-the-minute modes. This was probably the sort of thing which would have been brought over to America by men like Hercules Courtenay and William Long.
Thomas Johnson (1714-78), One Hundred & Fifty New Designs, 1761, Part 1, Plate 2, Digital Library for the Decorative Arts & Material Culture
Whilst Courtenay was still apprenticed to Thomas Johnson, the latter had published his New Book of Ornaments – at first in parts, from 1756-57 (some of the designs being collected by Gideon Saint for his working book, above), and then in 1761 as a complete work (One Hundred & Fifty New Designs). Luke Beckerdite suggests that Courtenay would probably have assembled his own collection of drawings and prints, like Saint’s, including those by or based on Johnson’s, or made under his supervsion, and that in this way Johnson’s designs entered the colonies – since there are few references to ownership of his book there to explain the elements of his work which appear in and around Philadelphia, where Courtenay worked as a carver for fourteen years . Many of the designs would have been impractical to make as complete articles; what they did so imaginatively was to demonstrate the process of composition in Rococo style, and to provide motifs which might be used on their own or reassembled, as well as items which could be constructed on slightly less airy lines.
Joseph Blackburn (fl.1752-d.1787), Mrs Samuel Cutts, c.1762-63, o/c, 50 ¼ x 40 ½ ins (127.6 x 102.9 cm.), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The frame of Blackburn’s Portrait of Mrs Samuel Cutts is what might have happened if one of the more usual frames he favoured had interbred with some of the fragile tendril-like elements of Johnson’s designs. This was evidently one of a special pair of frames, acquired for the portrait of a wealthy New Hampshire shipping merchant and his wife, the corner and centre acanthus leaf scolls pierced and cut away in a movement towards the filigree style of flamboyant English Rococo . Unlike French Rococo frames, which tended to be more slightly more solid and sculptural (like ormolu fittings) even at their most asymmetrical, British frames became increasingly lacey, with pierced trellis panels, free-floating garlands of flowers, and flying sprigs or rinceaux . The Cutts frame is fairly sober compared to such flights; but it is certainly elaborate and fantastic when looked at alongside Blackburn’s usual choice of frame. Interestingly, it looks as though it was never gilded but was stained and polished from the beginning – only the florets picked out in gold – giving it an exoticly Gothick air. It and its pair may be an indication that the workshops of Boston or Portsmouth were absorbing the influence of the Rococo from every source which reached them; whilst the finish may be linked to a continuing taste for dark frames on large oil paintings, whether simple linear mouldings or the more complex versions of the Hogarth frame.
Blackburn’s work had a great influence on John Singleton Copley, when he arrived in Copley’s hometown, Boston, and the Rococo frames he used also influenced Copley’s own style of framing. Portraits by Copley are found both in imported British Rococo frames, made of Scots pine, and American-made frames of white pine, and showing the same respective variations as in the Louis XIV-style patterns – a shallow form of the open hollow on the London imports, and a narrower, more erect profile on the locally-made versions.
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Theodore Atkinson junior, 1757-58, o/c, 50 x 40 ins (127 x 101.6 cm.), Rhode Island School of Design Museum
The portrait of Theodore Atkinson junior, the son of Blackburn’s sitter, Colonel Atkinson, has one of these imported British frames, with a wide concave margin defined by symmetrical S-scrolls, foliate corners with applied sunflowers, rocaille centres, and cusped and pierced tripartite demi-centres. Very straight floral rinceaux spring from corners and centres, and the sight edge is gadrooned. It is two to three years earlier than the frame on the portrait of the father by Blackburn, and during that time the style grew asymmetrical at the demi-centres, the S-scrolls were more rounded, the floreted rinceaux more relaxed, and the whole frame became lighter and more sensuous. It is, one feels, the wrong way round – Theodore junior should have been put into the pierced and skewed frame on the Blackburn, and his father into the symmetrical frame on the Copley – which, according to Morrison Heckscher, is ‘Copley’s classic Rococo frame’ .
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Thomas Boylston II, c. 1767-69, o/c, 49 15/16 x 40 3/16 ins (126.9 x 102 cm.), and detail, Harvard University Portrait Collection, Harvard Art Museums
The same article by Heckscher highlights the series of portraits of the Boylston family and their matching English Rococo frames. Beginning in 1766 with the matriarch, Mrs Thomas Boylston, Copley painted six portraits of the family, all but one of which retain their original frames . Save for the acanthus, rather than sunflower, corners, they are very similar indeed to the frame of Theodore Atkinson junior, and in spite of the difference in date were probably ordered from the same London workshop.
Export orders like these must have been a source both of pride and of very welcome income, just as the production of the frames for state portraits would have been for the succesive workshops of Gerrard Howard, René Stone and Isaac Gosset. There were expenses involved with these exports, of course, some of which would have been the reponsibility of the buyer (artist or client in the colonies), and some of the British framemaker; there would also have been added administrative costs in producing the bill of lading (specifying the contents of boxes or crates, as a remedy against smuggling), the insurance policy and the invoice. In John Smibert’s correspondence with Arthur Pond, back in London, he sends him ‘a Bill of Lading for eight Guineas’, and asks him to insure the projected cargo ‘for £150’ .
Rococo frames: John Singleton Copley, John Welch and Stephen Whiting
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Nicholas Boylston, 1773, o/c, 94 x 57 ins (238.8 x 144.8 cm.), and detail, Harvard University Portrait Collection, Harvard Art Museums
To quote Heckscher,
‘The carved and gilded Rococo frames made in Boston constitute the largest, most distinctive, and best-documented group of original Copley frames… The majority of Rococo frames in the Boston manner appear to be the work of two carvers…’ .
One of these carvers seems still to be unidentified, but the other is probably a man called John Welch, who is directly associated with Copley by the frame above. This was made for the third portrait Copley had produced of Nicholas Boylston – a full-length painting, commissioned by Harvard College, in whose archives is a note of payments for the portrait:
‘Occasional Expenses, viz:
Boylston’s Frame [£] 11 – 8 – 0
- Copley Do. Picture 56 – 18 – 0
- Welch carving. Do. 8 – 8 – 0’ 
The discrepancy in cost between the carving and the frame in toto is evidently the gilding, which was executed in another workshop, not identified in the note – a surprising separation of processes compared with Britain, where ‘carver & gilder’ went together like love and marriage. However, Copley himself had mentioned Welch in a letter to his half-brother, Henry Pelham, in 1771:
‘I have parted with two small frames… let me know what you paid Welch for carving and Whiting for Gilding.’ 
‘Whiting’ was Stephen Whiting, who specialized in gilding and japanning, particularly of looking-glasses; he worked with Welch ‘for much of his career’, and is probably the unnamed gilder . Apparently the separation of carving and gilding workshops
‘…was largely confined to New England, where ship carvers and cabinetmakers established the process of subcontracting gilding and decorative painting to japanners during the first quarter of the 18th century’ .
Welch himself (1711-89) may have been apprenticed to the George Robinson mentioned above as one of the earliest carvers working in Boston (or his son of the same name who was born in 1680); he had graduated into a journeyman by the time that he was 21, and was employed mainly on interior panelling and boiseries, and on ship carving, which was a busy industry in the 18th century, although highly specialized .
‘…it is… known that some carvers such as Grinling Gibbons started out as ship carvers and then left that trade to pursue a non-ship-carving career, as did the American sculptor William Rush’  –
– a statement which springs from the fact that ship carving was a career which required specific knowledge and training, and that a carver could not necessarily just cross over into ship carving, although the other way round was highly possible. Thomas Johnson, British Rococo designer and carver, discovered this when he encountered a ship-carver called Mercer who refused to allow him to carve any work intended for ships, in spite of Johnson’s obvious skill. If the apprentice system in America followed that in England, then Welch was probably a ship-carver who had served a seven-year apprenticeship, and then added other types of work to his portfolio, rather than a carver who just happened to do a bit of ship carving .
Until c.1763, ship’s figureheads were not polychromed, but gilded, painted gold, or finished in plain white . This suggests that Stephen Whiting may also have started out by gilding ship carvings (including figureheads), perhaps meeting Welch in this way, and that their careers then intertwined, covering all the stages of manufacture and finish of various items – picture and looking-glass frames as well.
John Welch (1711-89), looking-glass, 1775-90, mahogany & white pine, 43 ½ x 19 ½ ins, Sotheby’s
One looking glass attributed to Welch has surfaced:
‘Like the portrait frames documented and attributed to Welch, the looking glass is decorated with bold, but relatively simple, scroll and leaf carving. The near absence of shading cuts in his work may reflect Welch’s backround in ship carving, where large ornaments were viewed from a distance and did not require minute detail’ .
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Portrait of Sarah Erving Waldo, 1764-65, o/c, 59 x 48 ins (149.9 x 121.9 cm.), and detail, Peabody Essex Museum
No documentary evidence before 1771 links Copley with Welch and Whiting for his Boston Rococo frames; but those carved from that point onwards are identical with a number made earlier, such as this one on the portrait of Sarah Erving Waldo from the mid-1760s. It is related to the more radically cut out and pierced dark stained frame of Joseph Blackburn’s Mrs Samuel Cutts of c.1762-63 . Copley had met Joseph Blackburn in Boston when he was sixteen or seventeen, and had been quite strongly influenced by the Rococo style of his compositions, poses and decorative elements, so it is natural that the younger artist may also have been impressed by the frames Blackburn used; possibly even to using the same workshop.
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Mrs Ezekiel Goldthwait, née Elizabeth Lewis, 1770-71, o/c, 50 1/8 x 40 1/8 ins (127.32 x 101.92 cm.), and detail, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Welch had been in business in Boston from the age of twenty-two (i.e. from 1733), so might have been Blackburn’s framemaker for the years from 1752. However, he left America for London in 1758, probably to acquire as much up-to-date knowledge of British Rococo styles and workshop practices as possible, to enable him to compete with imported furniture and frames . He was still in London in early 1759, but must have returned by the early 1760s, when he would have been even better equipped to produce frames for Copley – not an insignificant task, since ‘at least thirty-two Copley portraits are surrounded by frames which were carved by Welch’ . The invoice for the painting and frame immediately above, and its pendant, was sent to Ezekiel Goldthwait by Copley in 1771:
‘To his Lady’s portrait half length 14 Gui[nea]s £19 – 12 – 0
To his own Do 19 – 12 – 0
To two carved Gold Frames at £9.0 18 – 0 – 0 ’ 
The cost of each frame, at almost half the cost of the portrait, added significantly to the price paid for the work of art as a whole, which was of course doubled for a married pair; this was a investment undertaken as a visible sign of mercantile and administrative power, and as a statement that, in this New World, the inhabitants had established an outpost of Britain which was just as luxurious, fashionable and up-to-date as London.
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Mrs Isaac Smith, née Elizabeth Storer, 1769, o/c, 50 1/8 x 40 1/8 ins (127.3 x 101.9 cm.), and detail, Yale University Art Gallery
The three examples illustrated here (Nicholas Boylston, Sarah Erving Waldo, and Mrs Ezekiel Goldthwait) represent one stage of the Rococo design seemingly particularly favoured by Copley; there was a second (e.g on Mrs Isaac Smith, above) – exactly the same, structurally and in terms of ornament – but with the areas at corners and centres outlined by flat C-scrolls cut out, including even the lobes of the scallop shell crest, leaving a more fragile and ethereal border, in the style of Thomas Johnson’s designs (but lacking his asymmetry: much American Rococo seems emphatically symmetrical).
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Mrs Edward Green, c. 1765, pastel on paper, 23 7/8 x 17 5/8 ins (60.6 x 44.8 cm.), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Thomas Hancock, 1764-66, o/c, 95 9/16 x 59 7/16 ins (242.7 x 150.9cm.), Harvard University Portrait Collection, Harvard Art Museums
This (lack of asymmetry) is also true of the group of Rococo frames which are said to have been made by an unknown Boston framemaker for Copley. They differ from the previous designs in that they have smooth peaked concave panels and dependant lambrequin fringes (where English frames would have used rocailles); they also have acanthus leaf -tip sight edges where other Copley frames are gadrooned. The large versions of this style have pierced rocaille centres and demi-centres; the set of three grand full-length portraits commissioned to fill the walls of the newly-rebuilt Harvard Hall use the space at the crest between foliate S-scrolls to hold the coats of arms of the sitters . There seems to be no particular reason to assume that these, too, were not made by John Welch, save that the design is slightly different (and the workmanship is implied to be less good) . Any workshop worth its salt, however, would be capable of producing a multiplicity of designs and versions of designs, and besides would presumably be employing apprentices and/or journeymen. The scrolling foliate corners, the flat top rails and the wandering rinceaux are, at all events, very close to the same elements on the frames recognized as by Welch – and why would Copley change his framemaker for these particular frames, when he continued to use Welch for others?
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Nathaniel Sparhawk, 1764, o/c, 90 x 57 ½ ins (228.6 x 146 cm.), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
An interesting diversion amongst Copley’s Rococo frames is the example containing his full-length portrait of Nathaniel Sparhawk: it is almost identical to those on the Harvard portraits (although it has lost most of the bottom rail, which is a replacement, and its armorial bearings, usurped by the Prince of Wales’s feathers). It is still – as it was originally – painted black. Like the stained and polished frame of Joseph Blackburn’s Mrs Samuel Cutts, this gives it a fantastic, Gothick appearance, as though Mr Sparhawk were posed in the courtyard of Walpole’s fictional castle. By a fortuitous coincidence, The Castle of Otranto, the first gothic novel, was actually published in 1764, the same year that the portrait was painted: although Copley was rather more likely to have been influenced by Blackburn than by a fashionable English novel.
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Andrew Oliver, c.1758, o/copper, 8 ¼ x 7 ¼ ins (21 x 18.4cm.), National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
The black finish of Sparhawk’s frame reflects the continuing popularity of the earliest painted Baroque profiles, and of the Hogarth frame. It gives added interest to the setting of Copley’s small portrait on copper of Andrew Oliver, in its version of a parcel-gilt Hogarth frame with spandrels. This portrait descended through the sitter’s family until it was sold in the 20th century; the frame was recently conserved, indicating that it had a relationship of some antiquity to the painting, and the fit does suggest that it could be original, although there is no explanation of the cherubs’ heads in the spandrels. The sitter was not in poor circumstances, but perhaps Copley did paint the portrait for this particular frame.
New York and high Rococo
John Durand (fl. c.1765-82), four of James Beekman’s children (clockwise, from top left): Catherine, b.1762; Abraham, b.1756; James, b.1758; Mary, b.1765; 1767, New-York Historical Society
The Beekmans (husband, wife and brother), who had been painted by Lawrence Kilburn in 1760 and 1761, commissioned John Durand in 1767 to paint their six children. The earlier portraits had been framed by the carver Stephen Dwight in late Louis XIV-Régence-style patterns, but the portraits of the children were framed by one of the immigrant carvers who had slipped into a hitherto uncompetitive area to rival Dwight – James Strachan of London. The artist John Durand was also from London; he had taken up an apprenticeship there with the Norfolk landscapist and animal painter Charles Catton, who was later appointed the king’s coach-painter. Durand may have been taught decorative and heraldic painting by Catton as well as representational art, since whilst he was working in Virginia, he advertized his ability to ‘paint, gild and varnish’ coaches and embellish them with coats of arms . This may perhaps have given him more insight when choosing a carver and gilder for the frames he needed.
The Beekman children’s portraits were recorded in their father’s account book:
To [cash] pd Monseir Deran for drawing
my six childrens Pictures 19. –
To [cash] pd D[o]… for altering
my Wifes Picture 1. 10. –
To [cash] pd mr. Strachon for 6 Gilt Frames
@ £3. 14 22. 4. – ’ 
This is another notable throwback to the age of the early Renaissance altarpiece, when the frame cost more than the paintings; it could only have happened in Britain by this time if a considerable trophy frame had been in question. Strachan moved to New York around 1765, when he advertized his presence as a ‘Carver and Gilder, from London’, who could execute ‘all Sorts of Picture and Glass Frames’, as well as furnishings and interior boiseries . Unfortunately by February 1769 he had died .
John Durand (fl. c.1765-82), Abraham Beekman, aged 11, 1767, o/linen, 36 x 28 ins (91.4 x 71.1 cm.), New-York Historical Society
John Durand (fl. c.1765-82), Jane Beekman, 1767, o/linen, 36 x 28 ins (91.4 x 71.1 cm.), New-York Historical Society
It is perhaps pertinent that Strachan advertized his ability to make ‘Glass Frames’, as this sort of extreme cutaway rail is associated primarily with looking glasses and overmantels, and in picture frames only for the more flamboyant of Rococo designs.
Chippendale (attrib.; 1718-79), George III white painted overmantel glass, c.1765, Ronald Phillips Ltd
Overmantel glass, 18th century Rococo limewood carving, 1750-59, 80 x 99.5 cm., drawing-room chimneypiece, Peckover House, Wisbech, NT
William Hogarth (1697-1764), The humours of an election series: Polling, 1754-55, o/c, 102.2 x 131.1 cm., Sir John Soane’s Museum
Hogarth’s predilection for the Rococo always seems slightly at odds with his dislike of the French in other areas of life; however, he was extremely interested in the design of the frames for his work . The Election series, painted in 1754-55, was sold to David Garrick – Hogarth’s friend, and a client who also appreciated a good Rococo frame. After the deaths of both Garrick and then his wife, the actress Eva Maria Garrick, in 1822, the series was bought by Sir John Soane, so has had a life of few interruptions since it was painted. The Rococo frames form ironically decorative and fantasy-pastoral foils for the satirical depictions of bribery, ant-semitism, bullying and general corruption endemic in these elections, as well as simultaneously complementing the Rococo colouring and compositions of the paintings. This is the kind of high Rococo design which Strachan would have been familiar with from his training and working life in London, and the kind of avant-garde pattern which might have had particular (non-ironic) attraction for his new clients in New York.
John Durand (fl. c.1765-82), Richard Ray II, c.1766, 35 ¾ x 29 ¼ ins, Museum of the City of New York. Photo: Suzanne Smeaton
Being equally au fait with looking-glasses, picture frames and boiseries, Strachan would have been particularly at home with the pierced designs he used, not only for the Beekman children’s portraits, but also for those of Mrs Richard Ray and her three sons (again, by John Durand). The looking-glass at Peckover House in England, embowered in cut-out scrolls, an eagle with swags of drapery and flowers, and a mascaron, has a linear gadrooned inner frame which looks towards the emphatic gadrooning forming the sight edge and substructure of Strachan’s frames.
‘Marattas’ and the NeoClassical
Nathaniel Dance (1748-1827), George, 9th Earl of Winchilsea (1752-1826), 1771, British ‘Maratta’, and detail, Christie’s [no date available]
The ‘Carlo Maratta’ was one of the most popular forms of portrait frame in Britain during the second half of the 18th century. It was originally a Roman frame with a Baroque profile of alternating deep convex and concave mouldings – the ‘Salvator Rosa’, designed in the 17th century and brought back to Britain by aristocrats making the Grand Tour, to frame the pictures they had acquired en route. It was copied by British craftsmen, and produced with various stages of enrichment, from three orders of ornament to five – one variant is this gadrooned frame with four runs of carved decoration on the portrait of the Earl of Winchilsea by Nathaniel Dance. The ‘Maratta’ is the antithesis of the curvaceous Rococo silhouette; it is linear, with architectural rather than naturalistic ornament, and fits happily into classicizing Palladian interiors, which helped its increasing popularity from the 1750s to 1770s.
Benjamin West was a Pennsylvanian who was naturally talented at a very young age, which gave him first an introduction to John Wollaston, and then between two and three years in Italy, copying Old Masters and meeting several of his peers. When he reached England in 1763, he was still only 21, and by the time he was thirty had become one of the founding members of the Royal Academy. Although he was basically self-taught, he had been given a relatively early acquaintance with artists who were familiar with the power of presentation – the importance of the frame to display a painting in the best, contemporary and also most fashionable way: one which would also differentiate the work of one painter from another on the crowded walls of an exhibition. He had met Angelica Kauffmann in Italy, whose work in England gained from frames designed by Robert Adam, and he had collaborated with Joshua Reynolds on the embryonic Royal Academy – a man whose taste seemed to run more with the ‘Maratta’ than with other styles .
Benjamin West (1738-1820), Queen Charlotte, 1779, o/c, 256.5 x 181.6 cm., Royal Collection, RCIN 405405
West’s chosen version of the ‘Maratta’ seems to have been adopted after he was employed by George III as Historical Painter to the King, receiving over the last thirty years or so of the 18th century approximately £12,500: an extraordinary sum for an artist from one patron at that time . The opulence and fineness of the carving was evidently justified.
Benjamin West (1738-1820), The Drummond family, 1776, o/c, 60 x 72 ins (152.4 x 182.88 cm.), Minneapolis Institute of Art
Benjamin West, details of frames on Queen Charlotte, 1779 (left), and Drummond family, 1776 (right)
The relatively plainer frame of The Drummond family, with part of the undecorated scotia revealed, is still rich with detailed runs of ornament, from the gadrooned top edge and centred enriched ribbon-&-stave to the separately-carved and applied acanthus leaf-&-shield in the hollow, and the centred husks at the sight edge. The royal frame packs the ornament more closely, achieving a complex shimmer of light and shade; the gadroon is further enriched – the shield swapped for an elegant reversed shell – and the sight edge for alternating decorated and plain beads. Always distinctive, it is the gadrooned top edge which is associated with West, preferably with the other details of the royal frame. A design like this is as decorative and precious as any Rococo frame, but the sheer opulence of the accreted ornament is held in check by the severe linearity of the structure.
Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), George Washington, Lafayette & Tilghman at Yorktown., c. 1784, o/c, 93 x 63 ins, Maryland State House, Annapolis
Like the Baroque French and Rococo styles it was inevitable that the ‘Maratta’ would cross the Atlantic, in spite of the fact that discontent, revolution and war were already shaking the links between colonies and mother country. Charles Willson Peale had been taught initially by John Singleton Copley and John Hesselius, and in 1767 was sent to study in England with his fellow American, Benjamin West. As with the latter, he would have been exposed generally to current framing fashions in London, but more particularly to West’s own very specific choice of design. So, when he came to frame his large group portrait of Washington at Yorktown for the State House in Annapolis, he produced a design related to his teacher’s gadrooned ‘Maratta’ frames.
This is a very much simpler design – just the gadrooned to edge, ribbon-&-stave, and husk at the sight edge; the scotia is left as an empty channel of gold, possibly to emphasize the difference between a victorious independent general and a defeated empire-building monarch. Unfortunately regilding has lost the patina which would have complemented the age of the painting, and over-emphasized the burnish. The outer run of gadrooning has greater prominence because of this more spartan arrangement; it is centred, and acts as an important optical device, leading the eye inward to the painted image and creating a suggestion of perspective which enhances the spatial depth of the painting. It is also an architectural rather than an organic form of ornament, and might have been seen as stronger and more ‘masculine’ in comparison with Rococo frames, and so perhaps more suited to a painting of victorious warriors.
The frame was made in Philadelphia, and sent, together with the painting, to be assembled in Annapolis by the leading cabinetmakers of the city, the Glaswegian John Shaw and Archibald Chisholm. From surviving letters and bills it appears that the cost of the frame, packing, transportation, and assembly of the whole work of art in the Annapolis State House cost £38. 4s.8d, in comparison with the £175 Peale received for the painting . This also compares with the 80 guineas or £84 which Allan Ramsay received for painting single figure portraits of the king, and the 40 guineas or £42 which Peale usually received for a single full-length figure. The royal frames cost 32 guineas, or £33.12s, which included – as in the case of Peale’s group portrait – packing and transportation .
James Reynolds, from the Pennsylvania Gazette, 4 September 1766 
The Philadelphia framemaker for some reason doesn’t seem to have been recorded, but it may well have been James Reynolds (or his sons James and Henry). In 1794 the city’s directory listed only five carvers & gilders and picture framemakers ; given that the numbers had grown since the mid-century, there would probably have been fewer than five in the 1760s-70s, when the chief of them would have been Reynolds, John Pollard and Hercules Courtenay. By the time that the Washington frame was made in 1784, Courtenay had retired to keep an inn; and since both Pollard and Reynolds had already produced work for by John Cadwalader, a friend of Washington and a patron of Charles Willson Peale, one of them must have seemed the logical choice to frame Peale’s portrait:
‘In June 1771 Cadwalader paid Reynolds £140.18.1 for four large carved looking glasses, 539 yards of papier-mâché molding, a dressing glass, and three half-length picture frames in burnished gold.’ 
Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), The family of John Cadwalader, 1772, o/c, 50 ½ x 41 ¼ ins (128.3 x 104.8 cm.), Philadelphia Museum of Art
The frame of this group portrait by Peale looks remarkably strange, through no fault of Reynolds’s design or craftsmanship, but because the whole swept Rococo contour has been sheared off at some point – presumably so that the painting and its four pendants might be fitted into a limited space.
Charles Willson Peale, Washington, Lafayette & Tilghman at Yorktown., c. 1784, detail
The gadrooned frame for Washington, Lafayette & Tilghman at Yorktown is in an entirely different style; but, as noted previously, it was the job of a good workshop to respond to commissions in any style available, and a ‘Maratta’ would be just as much within the scope of an ex-London carver as the most Rococo of his looking-glasses.
Peale’s painting was produced, framed and paid for in the last years when sterling was still the official American currency. With the victory of Washington which the portrait records, and the establishment of the Republic, a decision was made in 1786 to approve the use of the dollar, and in 1792 it was legally adopted as the new currency. The frame of the portrait was likewise one of the final products of a time when most framing styles had been adopted from those of the mother country, and fashions in Britain and America ran on parallel tracks.
James Earl, Major-General Charles Pinckney, c.1785-95, o/c, 34 ¼ x 28 9/16 ins (87 x 72.5 cm.), and detail, Worcester Art Museum
They would remain linked, because of their common roots; however, after the War of Independence, trade between America and France could take place without restriction, and influences from countries apart from Britain could filter in unchecked. The advent of the NeoClassical style simultaneously produced a more international vocabulary in all countries. For perhaps the first time, these frames are all but impossible to ascribe to a particular nationality without some idea of provenance, an examination of the back, or an analysis of the materials; otherwise a NeoClassical frame is much the same whether it was made in the Netherlands, France, Britain, or in America for James Earl’s Portrait of Major-General Pinckney.
APPENDIX: List of Boston framemakers, carvers and gilders (late 17th-18th centuries), abstracted from Myra Kaye’s ‘Eighteenth century Boston furniture craftsmen’ 
Austin, John; Carver; m. Susanna Screech 1750; worked in Charlestown (1750–1770)
Beath, Joseph; Carver; carved bed headboards and cornices for Samuel Grant, upholsterer
Bent, William & Adam; Instrument Makers & Carvers; 26 Orange Street
Bowles, Joshua; Carver; Ward 1
Buck, James; Picture Frame Maker, Print Seller, Glazier; Queen Street (1748–1751); ref. Dow
Burbeck, Edward; Carver; carved capitals on Faneuil Hall (1768)
Crouch, Jacob; Carver, Merchant; warehouse and land Merchants Row at Shippens Dock
Crouch, Jacob, & Company; Carvers; [Crouch and William Shute, jointly sued (1719), probably constitute company] Merchants Row at Shippens Dock
Dearborn, ———; Carver, Gilder, Picture Frame Maker; shop Milk Street; labelled picture frame (Winterthur)
DeCosta, Anthony; Carver
Deshon, Moses; Carver, (Auctioneer); m. Percis Stevens 1731, m. Mehetabel Gerrish 1739; carved Peter Faneuil’s coat of arms for Faneuil Hall (1743)
Dewing, Francis; Engraver, (Carver), (Calico Printer); arrived from London 1716; King Street (1716); principally an engraver, ‘He Likewise Cuts Neatly in wood’
Dupee, Isaac; Carver, (Merchant), (Gentleman); d. 1766; Boston Gazette February 9, 1761, ‘since the late Fire (on Dock Square) he has opened a Shop the North side of the Swing Bridge . . . ’, shop Oliver’s Dock (1763–1765)
Ennesly, William; Carver, Gilder; shop Theatre Alley
Gore, Stephen; Carver
Hobart (Habbot) (Hubbard), Gabriel; Carver; m. Ruth ——— about 1721
Hubbard, Richard; Carver, Chairmaker
James, George; Picture Frame Maker, Upholsterer; Newbury Street
Johnston, John; Portrait Painter, Painter, (Japanner); b. about 1753 son of Thomas Johnston (Sr.); apprenticed to John Gore, japanner; partner Daniel Rea (Rea & Johnston); ref. Swan ‘Johnstons’
Johnston (Johnson), Thomas (Sr.); Japanner, Painter, Engraver, (Looking Glass Seller); b.1708 (England), m. Rachel Thwing 1730, m. Bathsheba Thwing 1747, d. 1767; estate £912:1:10;ref. Fales, Downs ‘American Japanned’, Swan ‘Johnstons’, Whitehill and Hitchings
Johnston, Thomas Jr.; Japanner; b. 1731 son of Thomas Johnston (Sr.), d. about 1776; ref. Swan ‘Johnstons’, Whitehill and Hitchings
Knight, Richard; Carver; North Street near Battery
Lincoln (Linkhorn), John; Carver; [probably did carved work on chairs for Samuel Mattocks, chairmaker] promised court to pay Mattocks £4 worth of carving work on demand (1722)
Lloyd, Francis; Carver, Gilder; Milk Street
Luckis (Lucus), Thomas; Carver; d. 1808; North Street (1796–1800)
McDonald, William; Carver, Gilder; Essex Street (1796), Pond Street or Rowe’s Lane (1798)
Mason & Winslow; Looking Glass Makers
Mellens, Thomas; Joiner, Carver; [probably m. Susanna Bill 1720, i.m. Martha Williston 1729]
More, Samuel; Carver; arrived in Boston 1736
Randle (Randall), William; Japanner, (Cabinetmaker), Looking Glass Seller; m. Mary Butler 1714; advertised ‘Looking-Glasses of all sorts, . . . Chests-of-Drawers, Tables, . . . all sorts of Japan-work, Done and Sold by William Randle at the Sign of the Cabbinett, a Looking-Glass Shop in Queen-Street near the Town-House’ (Boston News-Letter, April 25, 1715); shop Dock Square (1731), shop Hanover Street (1738); signed high chest (Adams National Historic Site, Quincy, Massachusetts); ref. Brazer, Fraser ‘Pedigreed’, Lyon, Randall ‘Boston Japanner’
Rea & Johnston; Painters, Gilders, (Japanners); partners John Johnston and Daniel Rea, brothers-in-law (1773–1789); ref. Swan ‘Johnstons’
Redin (Redden), Henry; Carver
Richards, William; Carver; [probably brother of Edward Richards, joiner]
Robinson, George; Carver; father and son of same name and trade; son b. 1680, m. Sarah Maverick 1698, d. 1737
Sandford (Sanford), John; Carver, Gilder; 39 Cornhill
Shute, William; Carver; m. Martha Budd daughter of Edward Budd, carver, 1690, d. 1746; worked with Jacob Crouch (1719)
Skilling (Skillin), John; Carver; b. 1746 son of Simeon Skilling (Sr.), carver, m. Mary Fowle 1795, d. 1800; partner Simeon Skilling (Jr.) (1780–1800); apprentices Isaac Fowle, Edmund Raymond (1800); shop on wharf north of Governor Hancock’s, Skilling’s Wharf (1796–1798); documented pediment figures on chest-on-chest by Stephen Badlam of Dorchester Lower Falls (Antiques, xx [December, 1931], 341); ref. Swan ‘Revised’, Swan ‘Orrery’, Swan ‘Skillin’, Thwing.
Skilling (Skillin), Samuel; Carver; b. 1742 son of Simeon Skilling (Sr.), carver, d. 1816; Barret’s Wharf(1796–1798); for bibliography see Simeon (Sr.).
Skilling (Skillin), Simeon (Sr.); Carver; b. 1716, d. 1778; Salutation Alley; inventory 1786 £181:0:7; ref.Swan ‘Orrery’, Swan ‘Skillin’, Thwing.
Welch, John; Carver; b. 1711, m. Sarah Barrington 1735, m. Dorcas Gatecombe 1741, m. Elizabeth Hall 1753, d. 1789; carved codfish for House of Representatives; Dock Square; ref. Brown, Swan ‘i’, Swan ‘Johnstons’
Welch, John Jr.; Carver; b. 1735 son of John Welch, carver
Whiting, Stephen (Snr.); Japanner, Looking Glass Maker, Print Seller; b. 1720; declared bankrupt 1758; shop Union Street opposite Cornfield; labelled looking glass (Israel Sack, Inc.); ref. Brazer, Dow.
 Nathaniel Hawthorne, The scarlet letter, 1850, ch.VII (in the Wordsworth Classics edition, 1992, pp.128-29)
 Jacob Simon, The art of the picture frame, 1996, National Portrait Gallery, p. 31
 Ibid., pp. 32-33
 17th century painting in New England, ed. Louisa Dresser, exh. cat., Worcester Art Museum in collaboration with the American Antiquarian Society, 1934, p.16; letters of 13 September 1674 and 3 May 1675, addressed to his son-in-law, Colonel Shrimpton
 See the essay on Margaret Gibbs by the Freake-Gibbs Painter, 1670, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
 Frances K. Pohl, Framing America: a social history of American art, 2002, p. 59; quoted in ‘Gallery highlights – portraiture’, Clay Center Avampato Discovery Museum
 From Timothy Orne’s memorandum books, Orne Family Papers, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass. Payments to Badger are recorded October 27, 1756, and January 1, September 9, September 25, and October 17, 1757. Dresser 1972, 1. Quoted on the website of Worcester Art Museum
 See Jacob Simon, ‘Documenting developments in the taste for Auricular framing in Britain, 1620-80’, Auricular style: frames
 See the ‘Discussion’ element of the entry for The Freake-Gibbs Painter, John Freake, Worcester Art Museum
 Sven-Erik Åström, ‘English timber imports from Northern Europe in the 18th century’, Scandinavian Economic History Review, 18:1, 12-32, p.17
 From 2,000 inhabitants in 1650, and 9,000 in 1710, it increased to 16,382 in 1742, and 24,937 by 1800. See the population table in J. Ritchie Garrison, ‘Boston and its furnituremakers, 1650-1860’, Boston furniture, 1700-1900, papers presented at a conference of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 2013, pub. 2016, vol. 88.
 17th century painting in New England, op.cit., p.13
 The Freake-Gibbs Painter, John Freake, op. cit.
 Myra Kaye, ‘18th century Boston furniture craftsmen’, Appendix A of Boston furniture of the 18th century, papers presented at a conference of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1972, pub. 1974, vol. 48. See the list at the end of this present article of framemakers, carvers and gilders, abstracted from Myra Kaye’s more comprehensive list.
 ‘…there is no fashion in London but in three or four months is to be seen in Boston’, Daniel Neil , London, 1747, as quoted in
 See the post ‘Seeking information on the artist “J. Cooper”’, on the website, Understanding British Portraits; this points to the article by Robert Leath, ‘Jean Berger’s design book: Huguenot tradesmen & the dissemination of French Baroque style’ on the Chipstone website: American furniture, ed. Luke Beckerdite, 1994, from which the quotations are taken
 Myra Kaye, ‘18th century Boston furniture craftsmen’, op. cit.
 Robert Leath, ‘Jean Berger’s design book…’, op. cit.
 Ibid. Also: ‘Price was born in England in 1684; he was in Boston as early as 1714. A variety of records covering the fifty years from 1721 to his death in 1771 describe him as “print and map-seller,” “cabinet maker,” “picture man,” and “merchant.” His shop, the King’s Head and Looking Glass, near the Town House (today’s Old State House) offered framed prints, tea tables, looking glasses, “prospect glasses” (spy glasses), spectacles, toys, musical instruments, and other articles. It was to some extent a business in imported luxuries. Price became a solid citizen of Boston and, partly through his penchant for energetic advertising, he became a wealthy man’ (quoted from Sinclair Williams, “The musical pursuits of William Price and Thomas Johnston’, Music in colonial Massachusetts, papers presented at a conference of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1973, pub. 1985, vol. 54
 See Stuart P. Feld, ‘In the latest manner’, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 21, 9, May 1963, pp.296-308
 Arlene Palmer, ‘Glass production in 18th century America: The Wistarburgh Enterprise’, Winterthur Portfolio, vol. 11, 1976, p. 75
 See Neil Jeffares, ‘Johnston, Mrs Gideon, Mrs Robert Dering, née Henrietta de Beaulieu’, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800
 Michael Gregory, ‘The Hogarth frame’, Arnold Wiggins & Sons, 3 May 2017
 John Smibert to Sueton Grant, Boston, 22 September 1735, Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 49, 1915-16, p. 26
 Ibid.; Smibert to Pond, Boston, 1 July 1743, p. 28
 Ibid.; Smibert to Pond, Boston, 24 March 1743/44, p. 31-31
 Ibid.; Smibert to Pond, Boston, 6 April 1749, p. 34
 Morrison H. Heckscher, ‘Copley’s picture frames’, in John Singleton Copley in America, Carrie Rebora [et al.], exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995, pp. 143-59
 Ibid.; invoice sent to Samuel P. Savage, 23 April 1762; p. 145
 Ibid.; invoice sent to Jeremiah Powell, 17 April 1764; p. 145
 Ibid.; p. 147
 Morrison Heckscher, ‘The Beekman family portraits and their 18th century New York frames’, Furniture History, vol. 26, 1990, pp. 114, quoting from Beekman’s Account Book/Personal Affairs/ 1761-96, Beekman papers, New York Historical Society.
 Luke Beckerdite & Margaret K. Hofer, ‘Stephen Dwight reconsidered’, American Furniture, 2016; Chipstone website
 Estimates of Hardcastle’s age and experience are based on Luke Beckerdite’s and Margaret Hofer’s identification of him with an apprentice released from his contract to Henry Leech, a carver & gilder in the parish of St Martin-in-the Fields, London, following Leech’s death in 1736
 British and Irish Furniture Makers Online
 See Jacob Simon, ‘Frame studies: II. Allan Ramsay and picture frames’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 136, no 1096, July 1994, pp. 444-55
 See Elizabeth Baughan and Karl Kusserow, ‘Framing history in early Princeton’, on the background and restoration of this frame
 Jacob Simon, ibid.
 For example, Gaetano Brunetti’s Sixty Different Sorts of Ornaments, 1736
 Andrew Brunk, ‘Benjamin Randolph revisited’, American Furniture, 2007; Chipstone website
 Rebecca Mark & Robert Vaughan, The South, 2004, p. 38-39
 See ‘Finding the elusive Joseph Blackburn’, Explore the past, 2019, Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service
 Luke Beckerdite, ‘Thomas Johnson, Hercules Courtenay, and the dissemination of London Rococo design’, American Furniture, 2006, Chipstone website
 Morrison Heckscher, ‘Copley’s picture frames’, op. cit., p. 148
 Ibid., pp. 148-50
 Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 49, op. cit., p. 28
 Morrison Heckscher, ‘Copley’s picture frames’, op. cit., p. 151
 Luke Beckerdite, ‘American Rococo looking-glass: from maker’s hand to patron’s home’, American Furniture, 2009; Chipstone website
 Erica McCarthy, ‘Ship carvers’, Sculpture Journal, 24.2, 20015, p. 186
 Ibid. Also see Jacob Simon, “Thomas Johnson’s The Life of the Author,” pp. 23–29, for the episode of Johnson and Mercer
 Ibid., p. 182
 Luke Beckerdite, ‘American Rococo looking-glass…’, op. cit.
 It is always possible that this painting has a later 1770s frame, changed to update it or to match it to another painting
 Morrison Heckscher, ‘Copley’s picture frames’, op. cit., p. 151
 Luke Beckerdite, op. cit.
 Morrison Heckscher, op. cit., p.154
 Copley’s portrait of Thomas Hancock, shown here, is a startling memento mori of John Smibert’s portrait of the same sitter painted about 35 years before and illustrated in the Baroque section of this article. The earlier portrait is in a Louis XIV-style British frame
 Ibid., p. 156
 National Gallery of Art, Washington; Durand’s biography
 Morrison Heckscher, ‘The Beekman family portraits…’, op. cit., p.116
 Luke Beckerdite, ‘Immigrant carvers and the development of the Rococo style’, American Furniture, 1996; Chipstone website
 Strachan may have left family in London in a similar line of trade; another James Strachan (perhaps a nephew, great-nephew or grandson) is recorded at 8 Gerrard Street, Soho, working as a cabinetmaker and upholsterer from 1827-35; see the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840 at British History Online
 See Jacob Simon, ‘Hogarth’s framemaker’
 Jacob Simon, The art of the picture frame, National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 95
 Oliver Millar, The later Georgian pictures in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen, text vol., 1969, p. xvii
 Elaine Rice Bachmann notes that, ‘The receipted bill is MS1935, Peale Family Papers, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore’, in her article, ‘Charles Willson Peale’s portrait of George Washington for the Maryland State House: “Something better than a mere coppy” ‘, Antiques, February 2007, p. 71, note 28.
 Jacob Simon, ‘Allan Ramsay…’, op. cit., p.454, note 71
 See The Adverts 250 Project, 4 September 2016
 Maryalice Huggins, Aesop’s Mirror: a love story, p. 73
 Luke Beckerdite, ‘American Rococo looking-glass…’, op. cit.
 Myra Kaye, ‘18th century Boston furniture craftsmen’, op. cit.