Fragments of a picture frame

c. 1700
Gilt oak
Fragment A: 12 1/4 x 73 1/2 x 7 in. (31.115 cm x 1 m 86.69 cm x 17.78 cm) Fragment B: 11 x 73 3/4 x 7 in. (27.94 cm x 1 m 87.325 cm x 17.78 cm) Fragment C: 11 1/2 x 40 3/8 x 7 in. (29.21 x 102.553 x 17.78 cm)
Decorative Arts and Design
Wendy and Emery Reves Collection - Great Hall, Level 3
Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

These three fragments are all that remains of one of the great French frames made at the very end of the reign of Louis XIV or early in the reign of his grandson, Louis XV. In their present state, they falsely suggest that frames were made in large sections for stock and then assembled afterward to fit particular pictures. In fact, exactly the opposite was the case. When a frame was needed for a work in the royal collection, a design was created that took into account the particular picture and the decoration of the room in which it would hang. A great cabinetmaker or specialized frame maker would then commence work. A joiner would assemble large pieces of cured wood to fit the specific dimensions and would ready the piece for the carver, who would work directly in the wood from designs prepared either by a cabinetmaker, an artist, or an architect. These designs would be calibrated not only to harmonize with the picture itself, but, more important, to take part in a richly carved and furnished room. The carved frame would be covered with a coat of gesso or fine plaster and recarved. A master gilder would then analyze the form and surface textures of the frame and design a pattern of water and oil gilding that best suited it. In certain cases, the frame was gilded simultaneously with the major pieces of furniture and the paneling for a room.

Excerpt from

Dallas Museum of Art, Decorative Arts Highlights from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1995), 68.