This frame is of a type known to framers as Bagard after the French sculptor César Bagard (1620-1709). Bagard worked in Nancy, in Northern France and is known for his sculptures in bois de Sainte Lucie – a kind of cherrywood. This frame is indeed made out of some kind of hard fruitwood – probably cherry and is typical in its ornament of a stiff acanthus leaf pattern on a reverse section frame. Here is a raking photo of a corner to show the section and a picture of the reverse of the frame, showing a half-lapped construction – if you look carefully at the sight edge along the top of the reverse you can see a little inserted repair. There is the same thing at the sides and at the bottom of the frame. These frames were often used to frame carved crucifixes and perhaps this one once had a crucifix in it, most likely also carved from cherrywood.
Good example of a simple Louis XV frame. Note the re-cut sight edge ornament, the flattened shell motifs in the corners, the shallow carved leaf ornament trailing from the corners.
A lovely French frame, yellowy colour with much of the original detail retained.
The French Transitional pattern is possibly the most developed of French generic frame patterns. The ‘transition’ is that between between Louis XV style, rococo/swept/full of movement and Louis XVI style with a change towards neo-Clasicissm, more stylised, less naturalistic and with elements from the neo-Classical repetoire of lamb’s tongue, ribbon twist and fluting.
There is a label on the back of the frame suggesting that it had once housed a Degas painting of dancers. Clearly the gilding and red clay has been washed off this frame, quite carefully, leaving traces of the original surface. This is a finish that the French call decapé which is associated with the framing of Impressionist paintings.
Corner detail showing remains of yellow ground, red clay and gilding on gessoed surface.
Below another frame of similar pattern, with original gilding.
Small French frame, lovely carving and surface – this photograph taken in low light to imitate candlelight, in which gilding is at its very best.
The finish is the result of ‘dry-stripping’ (picking off) a later layer of oil gilding laid on a thin coat of gesso. This oil-over-gilding of watergilded frames is often seen on French 17th and 18th Century frames that made their way to England in the 19th Century where a flatter, brighter finish was much more popular. It is a lot of work picking it off (about 60 hours on this small frame) but, I think, well worth the effort.
This frame has a blindstamp on the reverse with the makers name – E L INFROIT – which was required by French law. Other famous makers known by these blindstamps include Cherin and Pepin.
Two frames, the outer one is a French 19C moulding with composition sight edge, with a lovely speckled finish that one sometimes sees on frames of this type – not sure why it is, perhaps a deterioration of a top layer of animal size?
The inner frame is a very specific kind of Italian 19C frame where the ornament is not carved in the wood but cut into thick gesso. The flat tops of the carving create an effect that catches the light beautifully.